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  1. Minor nitpick: There is Orwellian “newspeak”, and “doublethink”, not “doublespeak”. I believe you meant newspeak here.

    Comment by Nathan — 4 May 2011 @ 12:22 PM

  2. I haven’t read the book, but John Cook provides an invaluable and well-organized site in SkepticalScience, a site which now has several contributors (including myself) and in my opinion an efficient review process prior to posts going live. I have little doubt the book maintained high research standards throughout its development. I look forward to looking at it.

    Rasmus, I think there’s a good number of people in the research community interested in the runaway greenhouse effect, although maybe not so many traditional atmospheric scientists. The concept has become particularly important in the search for habitable exoplanets, since the runaway greenhouse (or in some cases a more intermediate “moist stratosphere” case) defines how close to a particular star you can push a planet to dehydrate that planet and terminate any prospet for life. Now that we’ve discovered about 500 exoplanets (growing on a monthly basis and with detection abilities beginning to resolve Earth and Neptune-sized bodies [Kepler launched a couple years ago to detect these bodies around a range of stars]) it is still a fascinating topic. This is a subject that has only been modeled in 1-D and so there’s still a large interest in understanding it further. I had some interest in working with Jim Kasting at Penn State on this in future years but funding opportunities fell through, so maybe in the future. Instead, Gavin will have to suffer with me hanging around at GISS this summer as a student working with Allegra LeGrande :-)

    There’s also a number of interesting applications in the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere that branch off from the runaway greenhouse physics, for example how fast a magma-ocean covered early Earth ends up cooling — you can’t lose heat to space of more than about 310 W/m2 or so for an Earth-sized planet with an efficient water vapor feedback, so it takes much longer for an atmosphere-cloaked Earth to cool off from impact events than a body just radiating at sigmaT^4. In fact Earth may very well have been in a transient runaway state after the moon forming impact.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 4 May 2011 @ 12:51 PM

  3. Denial is apparently caused by our lizard brainstem. What coincidence then, when talking about fossil fuels from plants from the era of huge long dead lizards (the fossil fuels are not made of the dinosaurs), that denying evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is linked to that lizard part of the brain.

    And, I might add, what an irony, considering the role of denial in creationism.

    Comment by JM — 4 May 2011 @ 2:27 PM

  4. Rasmus,

    If I were in the 48 percent who did not believe that AGW was a real problem, I’m not sure that being told that my views were due to my “lizard brainstem” would go very far in convincing me otherwise. While righteous indignation may be fun, it appeals much more to those already on our side than the doubters that need to be convinced. Similarly, critiquing the essentialized “deniers” without differentiating between those skeptics who can be convinced through reasoned argument and those who can’t risks driving the former group further away.

    That said, Skeptical Science has done a wonderful job providing quick links refutations of some of the sillier sophisms floating around the internet. As you mention, for better or worse policy arguements are settled in the public sphere rather than the rarified world of academic literature, and “domesticated” scientific arguements tend to have a much greater policy influence. Resources that allow a (relatively) lay audience to quickly find accurate and accessible answers are essential.

    [Response: Good point! But it doen’t follow that the 42% who are not convinced actually deny the fact – they see claims from both sides and may not be in position to judge the different versions in a proper way, and hence may be swaied by on or the other side. I don’t call this group ‘deniers’. Rather, it is the group that promotes claims which are demonstrately wrong and neglect relevant facts. You can call them the active participants in the debate. -rasmus]

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 4 May 2011 @ 2:45 PM

  5. 1
    Doublespeak seems a neologism neocons should embrace, as Leo Strauss’s acolytes were already practicing it in 1984.

    It will take more than another ice age to bring argument about post-Orwellian semiotics to a close.

    Comment by Russell — 4 May 2011 @ 2:59 PM

  6. “Denial is apparently caused by our lizard brainstem.”

    That would be a good idea to enlarge on. What can be done about it? Does education fix it or is evolution the only recourse? See: The Brain: The Last Frontier (1976 edition only) – Richard Restak, MD to start. Is a smaller brain stem required or do we need larger frontal or prefrontal lobes? Does pure IQ help or does it have to be math IQ?
    The answers to this type of question also answer the question: “Should we try to save the whole earth or just provide a lifeboat for a few?” See: In other words: Is it possible to convince enough people to take action or is the situation beyond hope? We need to answer this question first.

    The second question is: “What action is required?” At this time we have answered neither question. We are physicists. We should get the “mathematicians” to prove the existence of a solution to the problem before attempting to find the solution. There may be none. Or the only solution may involve violence or some other measure we haven’t or won’t consider.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 4 May 2011 @ 3:38 PM

  7. and repeat this claim over and over again. Although repeating it doesn’t make it more true, it’s a cunning way to drive in their message in people’s mind – just like cramming or training

    Or advertising. “A lie told often enough becomes the truth”. A tactic of creationists as well.

    I still find myself every now and then humming tunes from television commercials I last heard decades previously. Usually for products I never liked. It’s like trying to get gum off the bottom of your shoe. One of the reasons I despise the marketing industry.

    Comment by Ron R. — 4 May 2011 @ 3:57 PM

  8. Escalating denial:

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 4 May 2011 @ 5:08 PM

  9. Australia,
    latest poll 3 May 2011
    72% population accept that humans are partly or fully the cause of climate change,

    only 30% accept proposed carbon tax,

    no details of proposed carbon tax yet revealed

    Liberal coalition (conservatives} conducting anti tax campaign

    history of coalition support for action, (reprinted from web article)
    .The Liberals(conservatives) were the first main party to accept the science of global Warming, In 1990 Andrew Peacock, and again in 1993 John Hewson went to the electorate with a commitment to cut Australia’s Greenhouse Gas emissions 20% by 2000. In 1997 John Howard signed the Kyoto Protocol, “a stunning success” as he described it “Australia would make a massive contribution”, In 2002 Howard broke his commitment and refused to ratify Kyoto but was still adamant that all Kyoto emission reductions would be achieved, Four years later in 2006 the Howard government realised that it needed to improve its credibility on Global warming, Malcolm Turnbull(then climate change minister) claimed that Australia led the world in climate change policies, In 2007 The government went to the election proposing an ETS with enormous internal support, After losing the election, under Brendan Nelson the coalition adopted a classic harassment strategy , not questioning the science but focusing on any inconvenience that may arise. Malcolm Turnbull, fully understanding the science fought for the ETS, In 2009 the climate deniers in the coalition proudly declared their own ignorance, Turnbull was ousted because of his commitment to the science and “Climate change is crap” Tony Abbott became the Leader, Greg Hunt(current opposition climate change minister) like Turnbull also understands the science,both now tethered purely for short term political gain

    Tax details possibly revealed in july


    Comment by john byatt — 4 May 2011 @ 5:10 PM

  10. Typo: The text in the article incorrectly lists John Cook’s site as, although the link correctly points to

    Comment by Mike — 4 May 2011 @ 6:13 PM

  11. Rather than the Ehrlich formula, I would encourage applying the Kaya Identity:

    Emissions = population * GDP/capita * energy / unit GDP * emissions / unit energy

    It is termed an identity as it is true by definition, simply highlighting the connection via unit anslysis.

    A key insight is that each factor has its own dynamics and trend, which can be projected or stipulated independently of the others. Demographics gives us useful bounds on future population growth. Economists have (often rosy or even polyanna) projections of future growth of GDP per capita. This is one that can most usefully be disaggregated by country/region. Energy intensity of GDP has been steadily improving for decades, but not very fast. Emissions intensity per unit of useful energy is the “technology” question ( think ‘breakthrough’ …)

    There is a decent Wikipedia page on this at

    [Response: Of course, each factor *cannot* in fact be projected independently of the others, because of the strong interdependence of population, technology, and wealth.–eric]

    Comment by Jim Prall — 4 May 2011 @ 6:28 PM

  12. I think that people are often far too quick to dismiss others as immune to reason.

    People rarely change their opinions quickly, it takes a long time of chipping gently away before the walls start to crumble. That is actually a perfectly rational response – it is often not a good idea to be too quick to change your mind on major issues in response to every new bit of evidence.

    The fact that someone appears to dismiss your arguments – excellent as they undoubtedly are – does not mean that you should give up on them and call them names like ‘in denial’.

    You just need to be patient, and keep going. If they change, they probably won’t do it in a single conversation. You won’t see the effect that you had. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t have any.

    Comment by Josie — 4 May 2011 @ 6:39 PM

  13. You need to correct the address in your post.
    The correct address is, not

    Comment by Snapple — 4 May 2011 @ 7:35 PM

  14. For Josie comment #12 – A well thought-out comment, Josie. Very well said.

    Comment by Michael Klein — 4 May 2011 @ 8:05 PM

  15. Thanks for the article – I’ve just started reading the book myself.

    Further to Josie @ #12, I’d also like to say that even some of the most intransigent opponents can be brought around by sufficient reasoned debate. The problem is having that debate in the first place, given they frequently just dismiss out of hand arguments they disagree with.

    I have a friend (scientifically trained, if that’s relevant) who’s a dyed-in-the-wool republican, who follows many conservative blogs. He used to send me lots of links to articles denying global warming, but I countered every single one of them with as much factual science as I could find. I don’t know that he has actually come around to *accepting* the idea of AGW, but his vocal opposition to it has certainly tailed off dramatically over the past year or so.

    My point is that it’s often difficult to get people to change their mind once they’ve made it up about a topic, but it’s not impossible. The same friend above has stated that “I’m always right, if I was wrong I’d change my mind and then I’d be right again!” The real problem is getting folks like that to understand why they’re *not* right on this topic. Challenging, but doable.

    Comment by Bern — 4 May 2011 @ 8:26 PM

  16. So true Josie,
    Someone is not likely to change their mind quickly into (dis)believing global warming based on the latest evidence. There are compelling arguements to convince the most skeptical, but fervent believers on both sides are not likely to change their views easily.
    Name calling is not a very effective arguement.

    Comment by Dan H. — 4 May 2011 @ 9:50 PM

  17. According to:
    the book is about refuting denialist arguments with climate science rather than about the psychology of denial itself. We have enough climate science. We need more psychology. While we are at it, we also need a method of turning off panic and anger in ourselves and others. Panic and denial are pointless self defeating emotions. Anger can be pointless and self defeating if continued for too long.
    The method cannot require the taking of a pill. It has to be a remote button on its own box that turns off denial, panic and anger in anybody within sight without turning off vigilance or negating the inputs that caused the emotions.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 4 May 2011 @ 11:09 PM

  18. Typo in link to wikipedia on the Kaya identity. Should be (lower case w in /wiki/)

    Comment by Susanne — 4 May 2011 @ 11:32 PM

  19. Denialists are much more frightening than climate change.

    Comment by Anna — 5 May 2011 @ 1:00 AM

  20. I’d also like to point out that denial comes in many flavours. I live outside of Melbourne, Australia. I have trouble conceiving that a meter rise in sea-level would drastically change the face of the city. This is a form of denial. We need to be more aware of the psychology of this.

    Long hot and dry periods and water restictions have made me much more aware of the limitations of my local environment, near Ballarat. So I have accepted the fact that in the long term some areas may no longer be viable for residence, including mine. No psychological problem there, I’ve seen the ground looking like Mars too often and I despair.

    So I have two views, one of catastrophic change and the other of denial.

    Comment by MikeA — 5 May 2011 @ 2:27 AM

  21. Zeke (4) and Josie (12): Well said and very true.

    I take Zeke’s point as being that also those who are unconvinced though not “in denial” would typically not be swayed by what he calls “righteous indignation”.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 5 May 2011 @ 2:39 AM

  22. One thing I think is missing is one of the journalists main goals… to be first with the story. They do not tend to wait 6 months or more to see the response on a new article.

    Comment by Magnus W — 5 May 2011 @ 3:10 AM

  23. It is as if all of humanity has cancer – and the prognosis could be terminal. Medical science knows that some cancer patients will completely deny their disease, refuse any treatment and die without facing or fighting their ailment.

    Now we share a similar disease situation. Unlike any other time in history, our species survival requires we ruthlessly examine our plight and start a difficult treatment regimen.

    If we decide that we want to survive, then we cannot accept, respect or tolerate denial, This is because when a significant fraction of the population chooses inaction or distraction then it works to doom us all.

    We all will learn painful lessons, there may be some panic and anger. But to tolerate denial, means that we acquiesce. But to decide on species survival means we are unified behind the science.

    Civilization has to decide. We have to act like a newly diagnosed cancer patient. How much do we want to fight for our future? Is this something we want? Is the pain and deprivation worth it?

    BTW – when it comes to denial, it is time to rewrite a fable

    Comment by richard pauli — 5 May 2011 @ 3:28 AM

  24. Gee, Dan H., I don’t know. Why don’t you guys try finding some actual evidence to base your position on, and then we’ll see.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 May 2011 @ 3:56 AM

  25. I agree with the person who said we need more psychology, not more science to refute the propaganda used by deniers. Remember that the entire field of public relations is a misappropriation of research from psychology and p.r. The p.r. effort to discredit climate change scientists and their research is clever and ruthless. If the science of public relations can be used to spread lies, it can also be used to spread the truth. I would also recommend reviewing George Lakoff’s books. He has some excellent theories that are applicable to why science is losing to public relations,and why our side is so ineffective at presenting it’s case.

    Comment by Larry Saltzman — 5 May 2011 @ 3:59 AM

  26. It’s probably worth noting that while many people may be convinced through a more thorough education about what is currently known, there really are still some who don’t particularly value science or the scientific method. For those who arrive at a conclusion on AGW via political affinity or because they distrust “eggheads,” logic and facts seem unlikely to be effective.

    Comment by Ed Beroset — 5 May 2011 @ 4:00 AM

  27. If you go to people and say “Here is a problem, you will have to give up lots of fun things and live a much poorer life to solve it.” they will look very favourably on any argument to contradict you. If, as an alternative, you can say “Here is a problem and there is a solution that will give you a cleaner, more comfortable, more sustainable life for you and your children.” you might be in with a chance. The latter is possible but too many in the green movement have been using climate change as a vehicle to promote their simple life, communal living objectives. What is needed is the re-engineering of the energy infrastructure over the next 30 to 40 years. That will have to be done anyway as the existing kit wears out. It is all quite achievable from an engineering viewpoint but it is being undermined by an unholy symbiosis of green enthusiasts and deniers.

    [Response: I don’t see a lot of people trying to force some reduction in quality of life on the world, and if they were, they sure wouldn’t phrase it like that. They would point to the many positive aspects that come from reduced consumption, of which there are many. The problem is actually the way people misrepresent the positions of others–as you have done here–and use words to purposely trigger knee jerk responses in people, such as “communal”, which to many will bring up images of socialism and whatnot–Jim]

    Comment by Forlornehope — 5 May 2011 @ 4:31 AM

  28. I agree Paul,
    Referring to physicists or other scientists as having a reptilian brain will not be very persuasive. If one were to use the word denier to include all those who dispute the scientific evidence, then you would have to include those who believe that the data is lacking (due to unknown forces or slow responses), and that their own intellectual calculations are correct.

    Comment by Dan H. — 5 May 2011 @ 6:12 AM

  29. Meanwhile 47% of the population of Detroit are reported to be functionally illiterate.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 5 May 2011 @ 8:07 AM

  30. I tried to be skeptical about global warming.

    After all, it is difficult to accept that for several decades, each has been warmer than the last. It seems unreasonable to believe that the next decade will be warmer again. It seems all too likely that it will just cool down, and that it will end up having been a false alarm. However, as the warming has continued, it is harder to stay skeptical.

    So this is the extent of my skepticism – just finding it difficult to accept that global warming is real. But still believing that action is necessary to combat the potential threat.

    Denial, as practiced by people who call themselves “skeptics”, is very different. They try to justify their desire to believe something which goes against the evidence, and are prepared to be deliberately dishonest to sway others.

    I’m reminded of a “skeptic” mocking Tim Flannery over Tim’s prediction more than a decade ago that Perth (Western Australia) would run out of water because of reduced rainfall. Now I live in Perth, and while we may have water restrictions, there is still plenty of water. So I started to think that Tim was an alarmist – until someone pointed out that the reason we have enough water is because, after Tim’s prediction, we built a desalination plant.

    Comment by John Brookes — 5 May 2011 @ 8:24 AM

  31. Having been an early adapter of denialists, Eli has recently changed over to rejectionist. Rejection is active, denial is passive. There is nothing passive about most of the folks we are concerned with. Their rejectionism proceeds from their world view. Nicholas Stern and an increasing number of economists and social scientists have the right of it that the problem of dealing with the coming change is an ethical issue, not a scientific one, and the curses of our children are soon upon us.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 May 2011 @ 9:03 AM

  32. Referring to physicists or other scientists as having a reptilian brain will not be very persuasive.

    The fact remains that they do have reptilian brains, unless someone scooped that part out.

    Physicists who pop off about other scientists’ fields and lend their credentials to a not just un-scientific but anti-scientific movement aren’t just guilty of a reptilian response, they’re being dishonest.

    How are we supposed to “persuade” liars?

    Comment by JM — 5 May 2011 @ 9:32 AM

  33. Dan H.,
    Newsflash: We all have a “reptilian brain”–that is the portion of the brain that controls relatively primitive functions–fight-or-flight, arousal, anger…

    We also have a cerebral cortex–a thin layer on the outer portion of the brain that controls higher cognitive functions.

    Figure out which one you want to run your life. Frankly, I do not find refusal to consider evidence to be a position deserving of respect.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 May 2011 @ 9:58 AM

  34. Several things come up here for me. One is that of the medias reporting on sciences that have a political bias and will and need to influence politial decision making in that it must be argued on both sides regardless of the scientific appraisal and position in the subject at hand. I always wonder what would happen if the higgs boson had a political argument and that the only skeptics of its existance are scientists themselves. The media dont give a stuff if it exists are not, or dark matter and energy for that matter. Its only politically relevant science that get argued on both sides!

    The second point is the sheer scientific indifference by the public of its potential impact due to life being so good even though its us who are using up all of the goods, services and hence energy that make it so. We all know many people but denial is high and even for those who know it cant or will not make significant change to their lifestyles in sufficent numbers to mitigate co2 emissions for many a valid reason. Even if our democratic capatalist system does change our energy sources sufficiently it wont be enough until we have changed oue lifestyles to soem degree.

    I read recently that the 300 million people of the USA use up around 50% of the worlds good and services so its a massive argument here and its one that entrenched in left and right view points and in the USA the right are well organised and well funded and unfortunately they dont want to do much about it and seem to want to keep to status quo in regard to energy provision which is a dangerous attitude to take as far as I am concerned.

    Its a political battle that have to take place in the USA so get your sleeves rolled up for so far not much alternative energy relative to fossil fuels based ones is getting done.

    Comment by pete best — 5 May 2011 @ 10:02 AM

  35. Forlornehope:
    You know, if people had done something about this 20 years ago when the evidence first became incontrovertible, we might have stood a chance of getting through this without a severe decline in living standards. Now it is doubtful, and the toll that denial will take on us is not fully tallied.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 May 2011 @ 10:02 AM

  36. Josie wrote: “I think that people are often far too quick to dismiss others as immune to reason.”

    People who are deliberately lying, for money — LOTS of money — and who don’t care about the consequences to others, are immune to reason.

    There is no general “skepticism” of anthropogenic global warming that has somehow spontaneously arisen due to obscure psychological factors.

    That’s not what AGW denialism is. AGW denialism has been manufactured by a generation-long campaign of deliberate deceit, funded by ExxonMobil and Koch Industries and other fossil fuel corporations that collectively rake in one billion dollars per day in profit from the ongoing business-as-usual consumption of their destructive products.

    There will always be people who are for one reason or another vulnerable to being duped by deliberate liars. As someone once said, “there’s one born every minute.” That’s not going to change any time soon.

    What is needed is to confront and expose the deliberate liars for what they are.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 May 2011 @ 10:11 AM

  37. #28–

    “Referring to physicists or other scientists as having a reptilian brain will not be very persuasive.”

    DanH, you misunderstand. “Reptilian brain” isn’t rhetoric intended to demean your opponent; it’s a descriptive term referring to the evolutionarily old parts of the brain, the parts that we actually do have in common with reptiles.

    And I do mean “we”–you, me, Roy Spencer, James Hansen, and every other human on the face of the Earth.

    Comment by kevin mckinney — 5 May 2011 @ 10:12 AM

  38. Dan H wrote: “If one were to use the word denier to include all those who dispute the scientific evidence …”

    I use the word “denier” to include people like yourself, who knowingly and repeatedly post distortions, sophistry and outright falsehoods that have been repeatedly debunked.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 May 2011 @ 10:14 AM

  39. #30 John,
    if you really wanted to convince a “skeptic”, you would have at least noted if Perth was using more water, and needed additional water sources. You told only part of the story.

    Comment by J. Bob — 5 May 2011 @ 10:14 AM

  40. Forlornhope@27
    “The latter is possible but too many in the green movement have been using climate change as a vehicle to promote their simple life, communal living objectives. What is needed is the re-engineering of the energy infrastructure over the next 30 to 40 years.”

    The ‘green movement’ has been one of the strongest proponents of a re-engineering of the energy system. It is made up of a lot of different people, including ordinary people that do not match your stereotypical view.

    Comment by The Ville — 5 May 2011 @ 1:20 PM

  41. “What is needed is to confront and expose the deliberate liars for what they are.” – 36

    But that would be impolite name calling.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 5 May 2011 @ 1:24 PM

  42. “You know, if people had done something about this 20 years ago when the evidence first became incontrovertible, we might have stood a chance of getting through this without a severe decline in living standards. – 36

    20 years ago, it was all the rage among Conservative Economists to claim that the Earth’s resources were essentially infinite.

    Some still make this claim.

    “There is only one important resource which has shown a trend of increasing scarcity rather than increasing abundance. That resource is the most important of all—human beings. . . . [An] increase in the price of peoples’ services is a clear indication that people are becoming more scarce even though there are more of us.”

    – Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2 (Princeton, N.Y.: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 581.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 5 May 2011 @ 1:41 PM

  43. “But that would be impolite name calling.”-46

    Which many would also claim to be an “ad hom.”

    Well, I’ve been doing my best. Could we rephrase it to “What is needed is to continue to confront and expose. . . ?”

    Although I do think that frequently “No, that’s incorrect and here’s why. . .” may be more effective than the “impolite name calling”–however accurate the name may be.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 5 May 2011 @ 1:43 PM

  44. Kevin #37 (““Reptilian brain” isn’t rhetoric intended to demean your opponent; it’s a descriptive term”) – but what if (as, IMO, is the case) our reptile brain interprets “reptilian brain” as demeaning?

    Comment by Anna Haynes — 5 May 2011 @ 2:37 PM

  45. Forlornhope wrote: “… too many in the green movement have been using climate change as a vehicle to promote their simple life, communal living objectives.”

    Examples? As The Ville wrote, that sounds like a stereotype. I’ve been participating in the “green movement” since before the first Earth Day in 1970, and it has not been my experience that the “green movement” advocates “communal living”.

    Forlornhope wrote: “What is needed is the re-engineering of the energy infrastructure over the next 30 to 40 years.”

    The “green movement” has been pushing for the re-engineering of the energy infrastructure for the last 30 to 40 years. Amory Lovins wrote “Soft Energy Paths” in 1976.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 May 2011 @ 2:42 PM

  46. I only possess a layman knowledge of climate science, I am in no position to debate the science and neither is 99% (I’m guessing)of the general population, we simply have to take your word for it. Unfortunately, pretty much every site having to do with AGW, both pro and con, seems to have way to much content that is condescending, cruel and bigoted. A lot of us are simply tiring of it.

    Just my opinion… feel free to flame away.

    Anyway, this is not what my post is about.

    Last year I bought an electric (battery powered) lawn mower, did I do this because I was concerned about the environment?…NO..although that is a nice side benefit.
    After 30 years of changing oil, cleaning spark plugs, storing gas in my garage and generally making a lot of noise in the early morning I was seeking an alternative that WORKED. I would have done this sooner but good reliable (well priced) non-corded electric mowers were simply not available.
    I am more than pleased with this new electric mower, no maintenance issues, quiet, it does a great job and it was no more expensive than its internal combustion competition. Several of my neighbors have taken notice and also bought electric mowers, no discussion of AGW required.

    I don’t care about the psychology of denial, I don’t want silly punitive taxation schemes, I want good usable alternatives.

    Will Malthus be proven right? Are we to continue our present path believing that advances in technology will not be there to mitigate our plight?

    Comment by Joesixpack — 5 May 2011 @ 3:13 PM

  47. Joesixpack wrote: “… I don’t want silly punitive taxation schemes …”

    I don’t know of any “silly punitive taxation schemes” that have been proposed by anyone.

    I don’t think it is either “silly” or “punitive” to require polluters to pay the costs of their pollution, instead of foisting those costs onto YOU while they enjoy the profits.

    By the way, I also have an electric lawnmower powered by a removable, rechargeable battery, and it is really great in all the ways you mention.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 May 2011 @ 4:26 PM

  48. Josie. If we’re talking generallities, some people are impervious to reason, others not. Some fall somewhere in between. Some people change opinions quickly, some don’t. Certainly if you’ve been on this planet for very long, you’ll have noticed that some people wear their imperviousness to reason as badge of honor which they fully intend to take to the grave, and damn anybody who gets in the way.

    While this may be a discussion to some, it’s psyops to others; Ideological warfare, not a search for truth.

    As for the term ‘denial’, people in denial are in denial. If that’s the case, it’s not name calling. Claiming otherwise could be construed as tone trolling. I for one am not inclined to pat people on the head, or give them a trophies for participating, and tell them how wonderful they are for maliciously disrupting civic discourse on such a serious matter. It’s not as though even the most benign denialists are offering anything scientific to back up their positions.

    Eli. Rejectionists. Rejects for short?

    Comment by Radge Havers — 5 May 2011 @ 4:32 PM

  49. Secular,
    You should check out the EU carbon tax fiasco. Coruption is costing billions annually without notiveable improvement.
    I do not think that anyone is arguing that polluters should not pay. Charging someone for non-pollutants is deplorable.

    Comment by Dan H. — 5 May 2011 @ 4:44 PM

  50. Josie, if you think there’s any innocence about it, I suggest you read the comment thread linked below until you can no longer stomach it, note the patience and tolerance exercised by Schmidt et al. who did not allow stomach-turning content to deter from spending all spare and sleep time dealing with it, and then join the fray. I am all in favor of complimenting people on their undoubted real ability to think past this garbage, in order to encourage them to do so. I do believe they can. But assuming the source of the material is innocent is going too far.
    (there were several further articles, but this is a start)

    On Perth, a friend living there told me conditions included water rationing, and sent me a neat graphic of Australia that pretty much explains the situation last summer. I hope there has been improvement since then, please take a look:

    search via google, and then choose images: “australia map floods fires” will also enlighten anyone who thinks things are OK around there.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 5 May 2011 @ 4:54 PM

  51. Further to my previous, summer in Australia was January.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 5 May 2011 @ 5:07 PM

  52. AnnaHaynes@44 – If you don’t like “Reptilian brain” then call it “the basal ganglia”, which actually does have some control over making the horse drink the water you’ve led it to. ;)

    Comment by flxible — 5 May 2011 @ 5:10 PM

  53. Joesixpack:
    “Last year I bought an electric (battery powered) lawn mower, did I do this because I was concerned about the environment?…NO..although that is a nice side benefit.”

    Erm, not sure modern lawns are particularly environmentally friendly.
    They are after all completely un-natural. The other issue is that an electric lawnmower doesn’t reduce carbon emissions, changes in the generation sources and grid do.

    Why mention this??
    Well, because cutting carbon emissions must be based on facts, not on human desires. If a battery powered lawnmower is popular, but fails to cut emissions, then it is just another false path taken.

    Comment by The Ville — 5 May 2011 @ 5:30 PM

  54. “Charging someone for non-pollutants is deplorable.”

    …implying, clumsily, that CO2 is not a pollutant in the grotesque amounts currently being dumped into the atmosphere. The dose makes the poison, remember?

    Really, Dan H., your denier warts are showing.

    Comment by Adam R. — 5 May 2011 @ 5:56 PM

  55. The Ville wrote: “… an electric lawnmower doesn’t reduce carbon emissions, changes in the generation sources and grid do …”

    That’s true as far as it goes. In my case, my electric mower is charged from wind-generated electricity that I buy through the local utility. With an electric mower, you at least have the possibility of doing that.

    However, even if an electric mower is charged from coal-fired electricity, it might reduce emissions for three reasons:

    First, it’s my understanding that the type of motors used in lawn mowers are extremely polluting, more so than automobile engines. (And they don’t have catalytic converters and such either, so in addition to CO2 they emit a lot more nasty toxic pollutants than modern cars.)

    Second, I believe that (as with electric cars), an electric mower makes more efficient use of energy when it is running than does a combustion-powered mower.

    Third, one of the virtues of an electric mower is that it can be instantly turned on and off (mine has a “dead man” switch built into the handle, so that simply releasing the handle shuts the mower off, and gripping it turns the mower on). Because combustion-powered mowers are such a hassle to start, users typically leave them running even when they stop mowing for a short time, which burns fuel unnecessarily.

    In my case, I must admit that switching to an electric mower may have actually resulted in an increase in my energy consumption (albeit from wind power), because I didn’t switch from a gasoline-fueled power mower — I switched from a human-powered manual reel mower. Which cut the time it takes to mow my lawn from six hours to two hours. Whether the increase in electricity consumption is offset by the decrease in consumption of food calories needed to fuel me while mowing, I honestly don’t know.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 May 2011 @ 6:27 PM

  56. Sorry Adam,
    I could not disagree with you more.

    Comment by Dan H. — 5 May 2011 @ 8:32 PM

  57. Forlornhope @27:

    . . . too many in the green movement have been using climate change as a vehicle to promote their simple life, communal living objectives. What is needed is the re-engineering of the energy infrastructure over the next 30 to 40 years.

    The Centre for Alternative Technology near Machynlleth in Wales has been testing and demonstrating techniques to improve sustainability, including renewable energy sources, without promoting either a simple or a communal lifestyle since 1974. It is well worth a visit.

    Comment by Richard Simons — 5 May 2011 @ 8:57 PM

  58. 55 SecularAnimist

    Good grief! You still think somebody runs out and turn loose a windmill when you mow the lawn, just because they conned you into buying renewable energy? You didn’t. You might have helped finance renewable energy somewhere. But it seems that a new thing called ‘curtailment’ has been invented, which really means the windmill gets a pin put in the gears.

    Even more amazing is that in a world of physicists such as are so strongly represented in the field of climate scientists, you could still make an assertion comparing electric motors to gasoline engines. Surely someone at realclimate should be able to pipe up and explain that such a comparison is gibberish.

    Lawn mower engines are indeed about the sloppiest form of heat engine, so probably for CO2, your electric mower in combination with the relevant coal fired heat engine that runs the power plant, is an improvement.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 5 May 2011 @ 9:06 PM

  59. If one must have a lwn then I recommend an old fashioned human powered lawn mower. Better exercise as well.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 May 2011 @ 11:01 PM

  60. Compare 34 to 27 response.

    On the reptilian part of all mammal brains: Evolution is “conservative.” That means evolution does not throw away a part that works, even if it doesn’t any more. We still have appendixes too. The mammal brain is a reptile brain with a second layer added. The second layer is the “emotion chip.” Humans have a third layer. The third layer is the reasoning chip or math co-processor. That is only one way to think of the human brain.

    The fact that we have “conserved” brain parts from our predecessors is a proof of evolution. Just adding on to the previous generation computing machine is definitely not the way the new generation of computing machinery gets designed. We start from the ground up with a whole new machine. Life isn’t that way. There was no intelligent designer. Evolution is not intelligent, but it has enormous amounts of time available. Clearly, if there were an intelligent designer, our brains would not have parts that resemble the brains of our predecessors, the synapsids and the other mammals. [Mammals evolved from synapsids, not actually from reptiles. But synapsids look a lot like reptiles.

    Genetic engineering, by humans, would be required to get rid of the problems we have because of the more primitive parts of our brains. Evolution can change the relative sizes and influence of brain parts. In fact, that is one thing that distinguishes us from other primates. We have larger frontal lobes and relatively smaller “back lobes.” How far can that process go? Can evolution proceed far enough in enlarging the front of the brain and shrinking the more primitive parts to get rid of problems like denialism and panic? Can evolution give the average person of the future enough math IQ to exceed the talent of the best mathematicians of today? [Note that evolution does not have a pre-ordained direction. Something has to drive it.]

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 5 May 2011 @ 11:11 PM

  61. The Ville says
    “Erm, not sure modern lawns are particularly environmentally friendly.
    They are after all completely un-natural. The other issue is that an electric lawnmower doesn’t reduce carbon emissions, changes in the generation sources and grid do”

    Not easy changing the generation sources. There are groups that oppose nuclear, wind farms, solar farms and hydro…what’s left?
    Trimming my lawn is not in my top 10 fun things to do and in fact over 50% of my yard is now rocks, shrubs etc.
    If I lived in a mild climate (I only wish) where I did not have to listen to my furnace run for 6 months of the year I would be very very happy. Anyone want to sponsor me to move to Hawaii?

    Comment by Joesixpack — 6 May 2011 @ 1:11 AM

  62. @58 Jim Bullis:

    I’m not sure why you claim that comparing electric motors to gasoline engines is “gibberish.” Researchers at Tokai University have demonstrated a 100W DC electric motor with 96% efficiency. An internal combustion engine running on gasoline comes nowhere near this (20% is typical), but what we really need to compare is the well-to-wheels efficiency and pollution. I think you’ll find that electric still comes out ahead for lawnmowers, even if the local power plant is burning coal, because of the lack of pollution controls on small engines of the type that are typically used for lawnmowers.

    Comment by Ed Beroset — 6 May 2011 @ 6:03 AM

  63. Dan @49:
    There is no EU carbon tax. One is being proposed, but it hasn’t been enacted yet.

    I suspect you are talking about the ETS, which is a pollution permit trading scheme.


    Comment by Luke Silburn — 6 May 2011 @ 8:36 AM

  64. seems to me a lawn that takes 2 hours with a powermower is rather large. Could some of that could be replaced with natural?

    none of my business, but lawn-fashion is low-hanging fruit. People with smaller lawns and town ordinances/neighbors can make a tidy border of perfect lawn and use native plants in places that are dry to indicate control for the sake of those who are blind to our impact on the environment but require conformity.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 6 May 2011 @ 8:41 AM

  65. Lizard brainstems?! Since I just ordered the book, as an admirer of Cook’s SkepticalScience site, I really hope his and Washington’s foray into the social science literature will turn up something better than the pop neuroscience of yesteryear.

    Comment by CM — 6 May 2011 @ 9:19 AM

  66. Has anyone here looked into the (somewhat) recent work done by Kari Norgaard (2006) or Renee Lertzman (2009) on climate change denial? Much of what emerges is that many climate change ‘deniers’ do not actually just ‘not care’ but in fact care deeply and just feel completely ineffective at making any changes. From a psychotherapeutic perspective, this is linked to defense mechanisms that cause people to be ‘in denial’ or apathetic.

    For example: you care about an issue – say, your family or your health or your environment. You recognize that climate change has the ability to negatively impact those things. You have no idea what to do about it. It’s completely overwhelming. It mostly seems to be happening in far away places. There’s no common conclusion about it in the media. Et cetera. You decide (either consciously or subconsciously) that it’s too huge and you can’t do anything about it and so, as a defense mechanism, you begin to deny that it is happening to protect yourself mentally and emotionally from the weight of living in a world that’s going down in flames and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    I find this to be a very compelling argument. And if it’s true, then I think the responding question must also come from a psychotherapeutic perspective:

    While helping people to understand the immediacy of this issue and offering them easy ways to make changes in their lives (but meaningful! not just changing light bulbs while the coal plant next door puffs away), how can we support them emotionally so that addressing it seems manageable? How can we empower them, assisting their understanding of the system, helping them find ways to take action, and helping them to make those actions successful?

    Comment by anniet — 6 May 2011 @ 9:23 AM

  67. In regards to lawn mowers, power sources aside, here is another interesting fact (I cannot verify the accuracy of the numbers). Push power is best but electric is still a big improvement.

    The EPA estimates that over 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. That’s more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez, in the Gulf of Alaska. In addition to groundwater contamination, spilled fuel that evaporates into the air and volatile organic compounds spit out by small engines make smog-forming ozone when cooked by heat and sunlight.
    I do not want to wade into the whole ID thing, just an interesting concept

    Comment by Joesixpack — 6 May 2011 @ 11:15 AM

  68. Anniet,
    Interesting theory. Personally, I believe that the people who are denying climate science are those who have a personal stake in the issue, usually financially or politically. There is a lot of money and political clout surrounding this issue, and that usually results in corruption. Just look at what is happening in Europe.
    Both US political parties have taken a stand using selective scientific results to bolster their case. Neither is looking at the issue objectively. Corporations are supporting whatever legislation best supports their bottom line. Enron gambled and spent billions attempting to introduce cap and trade legislation from which they were expecting a huge windfall, and when bankrupt when it failed to materialize.


    Comment by Dan H. — 6 May 2011 @ 11:50 AM

  69. Yet more lawn mower trivia, once again I have not taken the time to verify these numbers as I have to check the stats on my own rechargeable mower:

    “Mowing an eighth acre should take between 20 and 30 minutes. Your average electric lawn mower is about 1/2 hp or 373 watts. That’s about .1 kWh consumed per mowing. Assuming 4 mowings per month, that’s .4 kWh. The average TV in the home consumes four times as much electricity in one *day*. If we assume a high power mower that puts out 2 hp, a month’s mowing still only consumes the electricity consumed by a TV in a day. (Color sets consume about 200 watts and the average American home has the TV on for 8 hours a day.”

    I am also trying to find an estimate on how much power is consumed by computers world wide, or even in North America. How much power are we consuming by chatting on this website on a daily basis?

    When you look at the explosion in electronic devices; ipads, cell phones, black berries etc., the power consumption must be enormous. Are all these things taking over where SUV’s left off?

    I know these are all light weight points (I don’t call myself Joesixpack for nothing) but as pointed out by anniet in a previous post, the average person has a tough time making changes.

    I can buy an electric mower, change my bulbs etc. and start to feel good and not realize that my increased computer/cell phone/ipad use just negated the whole thing. Even the most environmental conscious can be somewhat guilty of this.
    I can only hope that improvements in technology keep coming that I can make use of.

    Comment by Joesixpack — 6 May 2011 @ 12:21 PM

  70. 62 Ed Beroset

    Comparing efficiency of an electric motor to that of a heat engine is like comparing apples to doorknobs.

    Some sort of approximate validity would exist if an attempt was made to compare mechanical power output to heat power input. Thus, the 30% efficiency of the coal fired power plant would be combined with the 95% efficiency of the electric motor, resulting in 27% efficiency for the Animist’s lawnmower. This beats the gasoline engine, depending on which gasoline engine we are talking about. But that must then be adjusted for the extra CO2 from coal per unit of heat produced, dropping the relative merit to about 21 versus your 20 for gasoline engines. (‘Relative merit’ simplifies the units, but is still proportional to actual CO2 emitted.) Not much difference now.

    Now check the effect if the engine were efficient like that of the Prius. Numbers ranging from 35% to 38% efficiency appear in Argonne measure data. This clearly beats the electric system ‘relative merit’.

    The next round of gibberish is the claim that the ‘mix’ of sources that make electricity is not as bad as coal, and that better efficiencies can be achieved and lower emissions come from some of the alternative choices of power production. First, the issue is available capacity, meaning that most of the really ideal things, per example hydro, do not have available reserve capacity, so that does not increase output when new loads are imposed. The only real reserve capacity is in coal or natural gas facilities. Now the selection becomes a choice between these. Bear in mind we are talking about equipment standing ready to run harder, so the choice will be mostly based on cost of fuel. Since even now, the cost per BTU for heat from coal is less than half that for natural gas, the answer is obvious. The only exception is where the rate payers are subjected to extra cost by government forcing the choice to natural gas.

    That of course has happened in California and a few other places, but the ultimate joke is that action by California impacts the price of natural gas, so the intent of Califronia goes wrong because the upward pressure on natural gas price simply provokes less use of that seemingly better fuel by someone else in the world, and corresponding more use of coal. The only accomplishment achieved by charging higher electric rates in California is empty boasting rights.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 6 May 2011 @ 12:37 PM

  71. 66 anniet: Thanks for mentioning Renee Lertzman.

    ““dissociation”– our capacities to both know and “not know” and split off our awareness so we can function normally.”
    Going green “is also potentially frightening”
    “Going green, if we really pay attention, is about how we construct meaning in our lives. Until we incorporate the whole picture – opportunity, innovation and creativity, as well as fear, anxieties or losses of cherished identities tied to consumptive (and wasteful) practices – into our vision of being sustainable, we are going to be fighting a battle. Flowing against a current. When in fact, we can be flowing with the current – if we can acknowledge paradoxes, contradictions, and dilemmas these topics can bring up.”

    “acknowledging dilemmas helps disarm the tendency to fill in the gaps in what we don’t say, undermining the power of our messaging.”

    The problem: So what exactly didn’t we say? And how can physicists say it?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 6 May 2011 @ 1:03 PM

  72. RE Ed Beroset and mine #70

    Yes, the energy of refining gasoline etc. should be included, knocking the ‘relative merit’ for that by a factor of .83.

    Then you need to work out the energy of shipping coal which probably is even lower than that.

    For rough comparisons, it is reasonable to ignore the refining and shipping, though they probably work out in favor of gasoline systems over coal. For natural gas, the refining and shipping factors are minor, so were that to be affordable in comparison, that source of electricity in combination with electric vehicles would come out about even with good gasoline powered hybrids. The cost factor is overwhelmingly against that natural gas choice though.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 6 May 2011 @ 2:05 PM

  73. Re my previous,

    When natural gas was $3.50 per MMBTU there was some thought of looking at the very efficient combined cycle natural gas systems, and these would push the advantage a little more toward natural gas over coal. Still, not quite, but close enough to generate some interest.

    The main problem with that was that the glut of natural gas came about from aggressive pursuit of natural gas based on a price around $7.50. When the price hit $4 this pursuit was significantly cut back, in fact the number of rigs devoted to this activity by the leading company involve, Chesapeake Energy, was reduced from around 700 to around 400.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 6 May 2011 @ 2:18 PM

  74. Climate Denialism is probably mostly caused by the timely application of greenbacks.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 6 May 2011 @ 3:01 PM

  75. #70 Jim Bullis

    So by your example in California, could this be defined as a positive feedback loop where what appears to help actually hinders?

    Comment by Joesixpack — 6 May 2011 @ 3:22 PM

  76. 66 anniet,

    Most of the things that can be meaninfully done require more than just action by an individual. However, you do explain why some of the wrong answers have gained traction.

    With the help of corporations and promoters, it is possible for individuals to buy electric cars. Much excitement has ensued, since individual action is thus enabled. The fact is that this has a benefit of shifting from oil to coal, which makes a lot of people very excited. The fact that it does very little, and will probably lead to worsening of the climate crisis, is denied by the promoters of course, and also denied by the very people that ardently hope for this to be a climate solution. Promoters have little hesitancy in duping the hopeful, and this has reached a national crescendo of foolishness. Indeed, it seems to be worldwide foolishness. Most promoters have no idea what they are doing in this regard, though some would operate the P.T. Barnum mode, ‘a sucker is born every minute’. Or as W.C. Fields said, “It is a crime not to separate a sucker from his money.”

    Those interested in climate solutions should see that this false solution will poison the future for real solutions. And physicists should be the first to understand this.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 6 May 2011 @ 3:50 PM

  77. 75 Joessixpack,


    That is a good way to say it. In fact, you have the correct sense of positive feedback as Bode used it in discussion of control systems.

    For my own past experience in electronic system design, that kind of positive feedback leads to burned out parts, and a lot of unhappiness.

    Thus, it is a good analogy for what I was describing. Once people realize what suckers they have been, they are not easy to get to go along with better courses of action.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 6 May 2011 @ 4:05 PM

  78. 74 Jeffrey Davis,

    Climate denialism and climate opportunism are both driven by greenbacks.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 6 May 2011 @ 4:11 PM

  79. . 74 Jeffrey Davis,
Climate denialism and climate opportunism are both driven by greenbacks.

    Probably….try living without greenbacks for a few months or more and you will discover just how powerful a motivator they are.

    In my opinion some of this boils down to a growing lack of faith in the integrity of Government and other trusted institutes. We have been lied to on a consistent basis and it’s not too hard to find glaring examples…remember WMD in Iraq? Oops

    Take a look at the financial crisis of 08-09. Derivatives, CDS’s and other financial instruments too complex to fully understand were designed by PHD’s in math/finance, run through sophisticated computer models and were deemed to be safe investments with little to no risk of default…surprise!

    A lot of people’s retirement and life savings went up in smoke and brought the entire planet close to financial collapse. Then, to shore up bank balance sheets, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB, another well regarded and trusted institute full of very smart folks) changed the accounting rules to allow these worthless instruments to be valued by mark to model. The result…for two years running Wall St. bankers have given themselves bonuses to the tune of close to 150 billion each year, kindly funded by bail out money. The lot of them should be in jail !! By the way, the debt crisis is no where near being over, it’s getting worse.

    Mr. Bernanke assures us that inflation is under control, just look at the ‘core inflation numbers’ better know as the CPI that the government pumps out. Incredibly they openly admit that their calculations do not include energy or food…uh! Anybody who has to eat, heat their house or basically exist knows this is wrong.
    What has this got to do with denialism?
    Can you really blame people for not trusting what government/media or what any other institute is telling them?
    I am not saying that climate science is corrupt, I am only saying that you might be being painted with the same wide brush of mistrust.

    Comment by Joesixpack — 6 May 2011 @ 7:19 PM

  80. #44–

    Hi, Anna. I don’t think it’s the reptile brain per se that is bothered by the term “reptile brain”–it’s not very verbal, so though it may mediate the ‘upsetness’ it’s got to be working with the cerebrum.

    Anyway, whichever parts of your brain object to the term, blame Carl Sagan–he did a lot to popularize it in his best-seller “The Dragons Of Eden.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 6 May 2011 @ 8:53 PM

  81. 17 million gallons of spilled fuel from Lawnmowers?
    If the average spillage is .5oz then lawn mower tanks would have to be filled over 4 billion times per year.
    Highly unlikely even if we are talking about the entire world.

    Comment by Wes — 6 May 2011 @ 8:56 PM

  82. Joesixpack: “Take a look at the financial crisis of 08-09.”

    OK, first, Credit-Default Swaps and other derivatives are NOT to complicated to understand. Second, they were never intended as a way of leveraging capital but rather of mitigating risk. Third, the computer models were trained using data for home owners with good credit, who had put a substantial down payment down, etc. The model was then used (not by the PhDs, I would note) to estimate risk on Liar’s Loans with no money down for people with lousy credit. See a problem here.

    Fourth, now let me see if I’ve got this straight: A bunch of Wall Street bankers lied to you, so you aren’t going to trust scientists anymore?

    Dude. WTF!?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 May 2011 @ 9:19 PM

  83. For all who try to talk about the green movement in such a fashion that there is nothing wrong about it (there is something wrong in all movements, and things to be corrected) – I recommend reading Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand. The author is deeply concerned about climate change and the destruction of our environment. He is also deeply concerned about the state of the green movement of today. He has a long history from the inside, and he can claim doing way more for the green movement than most others. His book is praised by James Lovelock, O.E. Wilson, Mark Lynas and so many more. In stead of debunking the comment by Forlornhope, you might try to find out if there is some truth in it too, all the action by the greens is not helpful. Stewart Brand quotes really many former green movement leaders who have changed their attitudes towards cities, genetic engineering and nuclear power and some other issues.

    [Response: Whether there’s any “truth” in it or not is beside the point–it’s off topic.–Jim]

    Comment by Risto Linturi — 7 May 2011 @ 1:33 AM

  84. Well … sorry, but I too suspect that referring to pop pseudoscience from the ’70s (“lizard brainstem”), as well as just making up nonfacts (the notion that “denial is apparently caused by” this structure) might not be particularly helpful when attempting to convert denialists. That said, carry on.

    Comment by Vincent — 7 May 2011 @ 1:42 AM

  85. Joesixpack #79, yep, well observed.

    People have been lied to by politicians, lawyers, used-car salespersons, business folk… endless list. Why should scientists be any different? In fact, many are not, luckily for the think tanks. But the mental jump from that to the contrary observation that science as a process/community nevertheless works pretty well, is something most “Joes Sixpack” don’t manage to make. And few people know any scientists first hand.

    The same applies BTW for the medical profession. And there, the distrust actually kills people on the short term. A sad equation, not easy to solve.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 7 May 2011 @ 2:17 AM

  86. [OT-take it elsewhere]

    Comment by Risto Linturi — 7 May 2011 @ 2:59 AM

  87. @Jim Bullis:
    With the help of corporations and promoters, it is possible for individuals to buy electric cars. Much excitement has ensued, since individual action is thus enabled. The fact is that this has a benefit of shifting from oil to coal,…Those interested in climate solutions should see that this false solution will poison the future for real solutions. And physicists should be the first to understand this.

    Indeed, genuine progress in reducing emissions must begin with the big targets of power generation and deforestation. Until EVs are powered to a much greater degree by renewable energy, they are of little help.

    They do, however, offer an opportunity for distributed use of PV power for charging stations–supplementary, if not full load–at homes and businesses. EVs need not be 100% fossil fuel free to make a useful contribution to carbon emissions reduction.

    Comment by Adam R. — 7 May 2011 @ 6:46 AM

  88. wait, can you check the math in the main post?
    “a reduction by 0.7 x 0.8 x 0.3 x 0.8 = 0.13” doesn’t seem the right answer for the cumulative reduction in fuel, for the examples discussed.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 May 2011 @ 9:07 AM

  89. There will always be a fascination with the unknowable and beautiful formulations and mathematics, no matter how not even wrong it might be. A proper comparison of the theorists out of touch with the real world in finance and those bent on profiting from it would be with the denial industry and their tame scientists and exploitation of more honest but misguided natural contrarians by politicians and policymakers bent on short-term profit.

    I’m trying to get my non-scientific head around the lay end of physics, with much help from Michael Tobis (though he may not know how hard I’m studying his words to try to get the sense into my stubborn brain). What emerges is a disconnect between what science is able to say and do and what is actually going on. The two are not unrelated, they just occupy different areas of understanding. Science must study the dynamics of cause and effect in a provable way and outliers like the most powerful storms which have more unique dynamics provide distracting noise. However, they must be considered as part of a continuum of extremes.

    It seems so obvious that climate has changed, that it is hard to understand those who hem and haw about it. But my simplistic conclusion is that the undoubted fact that in almost all cases no single weather event can be attributed to global warming, though in clusters characteristic of the expected results, has been distorted by the denial industry to say that NO weather can be attributed to gw/cc etc. They can see that an ordinary person preoccupied with daily issues, of which there are many, finds these statements pretty much the same, while in fact they are opposite. The scientists are being careful and honest, and the denialists are being certain and dishonest.

    The other side of this is that in fact at this point ALL weather is being affected by cc from gw, to a greater or lesser degree. The system has been altered and is not going back in our lifetimes or in fact for the foreseeable future.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 7 May 2011 @ 9:28 AM

  90. Dan H @ 56: Sorry Adam, I could not disagree with you more.

    Is that because you think that the word “pollutant” means exactly what you say it does, neither any more or any less?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 7 May 2011 @ 11:28 AM

  91. Jim Bullis’s argument on the relative CO2 emissions of electric lawn mowers, and EV cars, rests on the ~50% figure for electrical generation from burning coal. The problem is that is an average percentage, and furthermore it is based on US usage.

    The fact is, there are jurisdictions in which the percentage is both higher and lower than 50%, which means there are jurisdictions where the use of an electric lawnmower or EV would be more or less carbon intensive.

    For example, I live in a non-US jurisdiction where 75% of electricity is generated by other than fossil fuel combustion, and even the remaining 25% that is fossil fuel-generated is mainly consumed during peak summer use periods and is imported from the midwestern US.

    That means in the jurisdiction where I live an electric lawnmower or EV would have a much lower carbon footprint than it would in a jurisdiction where far more than 50% is generated by burning coal. Say, the provence of Quebec (overwhelmingly hydroelectric), or even Ontario (50% nuclear), verses most midwestern US states.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 7 May 2011 @ 11:44 AM

  92. #82 Ray

    Fourth, now let me see if I’ve got this straight: A bunch of Wall Street bankers lied to you, so you aren’t going to trust scientists anymore?

    I didn’t say me. I only know that there is a lot of angry folks out there who are simply no longer willing to listen to any type of reason no matter what the issue is. Bottom line is, a group of powerful and trusted individuals knowingly took everyone to the cleaners and were rewarded for it. I am only guessing that this breach (or perceived breach) of trust has a spill over effect where many are taking the attitude of “who else is out to get me”. Note that I say I am only guessing that it may effect how people view climate or other branches of science for that matter…I’m probably wrong.
    Don’t forget that the crisis took down a lot of very well educated folks in finance who you would think would know better or at least seen it coming. Even the Harvard endowment fund took over a 30% hit.

    Yes, the basic function or purpose of derivatives is not terribly complex but the scope and size of these mark to model instruments is pretty scary stuff. As far as managing risk I would have to conclude that they ended up not doing that so well.

    Anyway, in my post about the 17 million gallons of spilled gas due to lawnmowers, I got this info from a site called “people powered machines” who were quoting stats from the EPA. I agree that the figure sounds almost unbelievable. Fact or fiction?

    Comment by Joesixpack — 7 May 2011 @ 12:06 PM

  93. 91 Jim Eager,

    You misread.

    Yes, my argument would be valid if 50% of electric energy came from coal.

    But that argument is far stronger given that 100% of the energy to run the lawn mower will come from coal.

    Your statistics are not meaningful because they relate to the status quo of the power generating mix, and as so are probably correct. However, that is not relevant when a new plug-in load is added. It is the response to new loads that matters, and this is called the marginal response.

    When electricity requirements increase to handle plug-ins of any kind, the nuclear power output does not change, the hydro-electric output does not change, and neither do the renewable energy sources. All of these are fully utilized whether or not any new plug-ins are used. The only possibilities for response are the fossil fuel based systems, namely natural gas and coal systems.

    Please read the last two paragraphs of my #70 above for a discussion of how the fuel for the marginal response ultimately descends to coal, no matter what people would like to think otherwise.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 12:33 PM

  94. “There is also the fact that way too little has been done regarding mitigation and adaptation, and too few people work with these issues. So when top politicians travel around to international climate summits, but provide little funding for work on mitigation and adaptation – that really is double communication.”

    I am sorry if you find that I was off topic. My profession is futures research and I am very concerned in the quoted issue in this article. I wanted to point out one of the reasons. Much of the mitigation and adaptation effort is not started sue to dogmatic resistance by the traditional green movement as Brend, Lovelock and others say. It is not only the denialists who are responsible for inaction.

    Comment by Risto Linturi — 7 May 2011 @ 12:38 PM

  95. Hey, I just found a great example

    Yesterdays National Post has the following headline:

    Climate may be changing, just not here, study finds

    The article goes on to say that one of the world’s top science journals says climate hasn’t changed in most of North America, resisting the global trend.
    Scientists from Stanford and Columbia said that while Canadian and U.S. temperatures have changed, they are still within the range of “natural variability” in weather. So in North America, the effects of climate change are practically invisible. The United States isn’t getting hotter, nor are it’s crops decreasing (the study was focused on agricultural output)
    The article is much longer (you have to read it)

    [Response: Give us an actual reference and we will.–Jim]

    and they do state that elsewhere in the world the effects of climate change are impacting agricultural output which is causing food inflation, some economists are blaming the rising cost of food on cost push inflation which is caused by currency devaluation…I suspect it is a combination of the two. The study appeared in Science journal.

    So here is a possible factor in the whole denial debate. People are more likely to believe what they see or experience. If you live in North America, look out your window and do not see or feel any perceptible change in climate, would this not effect your judgement.

    [Response: If you look out your window??? If I live in the deep south and I see the worst tornado outbreak in 85 years, or near Memphis and see the Mississippi crest at it’s highest measured level, or in western Oklahoma and see the longest streak of low-precipitation days in over 100 years, then yes, that’s going to affect my judgement. Then we could also look at temperature trends in Northern, and Western, North America.–Jim]

    Comment by Joesixpack — 7 May 2011 @ 1:11 PM

  96. Joesixpack: “Bottom line is, a group of powerful and trusted individuals knowingly took everyone to the cleaners and were rewarded for it.”

    Is anyone really stupid enough to trust a banker?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 May 2011 @ 1:35 PM

  97. Joesixpack:

    Your statement shows you’ve been taken to the cleaners by the guys who promote that line of talk. You should do a little research and find out what actually happened, not the article of faith careful rendition promoted by the disinformationalists. It was and is a carefully organized campaign, timed to a fare-thee-well, but it is still not real or true.

    A good place to start:

    Gavin Schmidt didn’t seem to get much sleep as this nonsense was put out. You are posting here, and owe your host to find out what real scientists say about this, not the hot air that it was intended to generate.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 7 May 2011 @ 2:09 PM

  98. Risto Linturi, meet Jim Bullis. Jim, Risto has made “major investments” in flying cars. Risto, Jim has a revolutionary design for a car with an “airship” body. Why don’t the two of you go take each other for a ride?

    Comment by CM — 7 May 2011 @ 2:15 PM

  99. 89 Susan Anderson,

    Physics might offer logical examples for how to think about climate, but observation needs first to be based only on logic. Then the observations need to be related to science. Fortunately, with physics there are some really solid “laws” that we can rely on without a lot of argument, uh if we correctly remember and understand them.

    So when you say that the impact of global warming on climate is obvious, I say, “Huh?” Yes, it seems so in some cases but many times, not so much.

    For example, I just heard that the terrible tornado season is due to global warming and also that it is the worst tornado season since 1935. What is wrong with this statement?

    Another example is that of the parched earth observations and expectations compared to the corresponding experience with the dust bowl of the 1920s.

    Surely we are not paying attention to the news story showing a woman standing on her porch in coastal South Carolina saying, “I see the effect of global warming every day!”

    I tend to be a believer that arctic ice is diminishing, only partly from observational data which is very hard to precisely acquire and also hard to get confident about; a few years ago arctic sea ice was said to be worse than it had been for thirty years, or some such number – – I think that has been firmed up some. The other reason is that I am inclined to think that we should be expecting more heat is going into the oceans than the modelers are taking account of, and thus, air temperatures might not fully represent the warming problem, but sea ice reduction could be the more immediate response. So observations and interpretations fitting together lead to a belief in how things might turn out.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 2:23 PM

  100. 95 Joesixpack and moderator Jim.,

    I wrote my last without knowledge that this #95 was coming along.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 2:28 PM

  101. Vincent #84, I don’t mean to dwell on this — at least until I’ve read the book!, but just for the record, I don’t think that the triune brain model as such was “pseudoscience”. As for using it to explain ideological positions, though, we agree.

    Comment by CM — 7 May 2011 @ 2:36 PM

  102. 89 Susan Anderson,

    You mention a book by Michael Tobis and learning physics from it.

    I continue to puzzle over the apparent lack of understanding of physics among the authorities making critical energy decisions. I explain this to myself as something that could only be happening if basic physics had been generally forgotten.

    When the old folk such as myself were taught physics there was emphasis placed on the relationship between the Laws of Thermodynamics and the basis of the Industrial Revolution. I think we would not have been allowed a passing grade without understanding the severe burden on the process of converting from heat to mechanical energy that the Second Law imposed. Also part of the program would be a clear teaching of the function of an electric motor/generator as a translator of energy from electrical energy to mechanical energy. Nobody would have graduated thinking that efficiency of an electric motor could be compared with efficiency of a heat engine.

    So my perplexed condition continues to worsen, having been able to roust out hardly anyone who understands the above paragraph. We old folks have a handy excuse, being old and such, but the explanation for malfeasance by the young folk has to be that physics is not really taught the same way these days. I have surveyed more recent texts, and the material is still there, though the emphasis might be lessened.

    Another explanation is that this topic became so unimportant through the days of cheap fuel and shift of interest to electronics that it was regarded as a topic to enable catching up on sleep, instead of giving it rapt attention.

    So perhaps you will report to us what Michael Tobis says on this subject. You might note from the string of comments here that it is once again a topic of importance.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 3:13 PM

  103. Jim Bullis, thanks for your good intentions. Actually, I have a pretty good idea of what is going on, and I understand how physics works fairly well for a layperson. I get that that’s your opinion and you’re sticking with it, but I have excellent physicist sources and they don’t agree with you.

    I like what Michael Tobis said (well, taking a look, a small part of the many things mt said, most of which are useful and relevant):

    “0.7 C is neither a nudge nor not a nudge. This is the problem; a lot of people are just assuming that roughly speaking we increase everything everywhere by 0.7C and consider how the climate responds. Anything not explainable by that nudge is attributed to ordinary run of the mill bad luck.

    “No, it is better to look in terms of energy rather than temperature. The current net anthropogenic forcing is about equivalent to a bit less than 1% increase in solar energy hitting the surface, or about 2 watts per square meter; eventually going up to perhaps 8.”

    “He is arguing that severe events not be used in hypothesis testing. I agree.

    “I am arguing that even though statistical attribution of extreme events is not possible, that does not mean that the causality is absent. These points are compatible but not identical.”

    “I am really exasperated by people who, when they don’t find unambiguous trends, conclude that nothing is happening.”

    Please forgive me for using my current reading to try to say better what I would like to be able to say. BTW, mt is *not* of the sources I mentioned in par. 1.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 7 May 2011 @ 4:15 PM

  104. Jim regarding the article that Joe7pak was misquoting.

    I almost found the article which was by David Lobell and Justin Costa-Roberts and it was published in science. I haven’t actually found it and have to run. But here is an interview that should get you started.

    [Response: Thanks John. It’s Lobell et al 2011 Climate Trends and Global Crop Production Since 1980 DOI:10.1126/science.1204531.–Jim]

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 7 May 2011 @ 4:19 PM

  105. JB: oops, crossed in the mail. I am closely studying mt’s recent blog posts and comments, did I mention a book? A few direct quotes have already been submitted. Your claims don’t outweigh other information I’ve been trying to understand. My approach more closely ties in with Masters at Wunderground (you could also check out climatesignals, climatecentral, or a number of other places that keep track over weather events). I’m an artist with considerable experience of how science works. Your pose (rousting out somebody who can explain, come on!) strikes me as disingenuous. I’m not sure why you decided to set me straight, but you may have the last word as I don’t plan to pursue this any further with you.

    There is no possible way I can contribute to physics but I’d like the general population to have a better understanding of uncertainly, and how uncertainty about something is not an indication that it is wrong or incorrect. That’s why I like the mt work.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 7 May 2011 @ 4:29 PM

  106. Global mean temperature pattern is cyclic as shown in the following graph!

    CO2 emission has nothing to do with global mean temperature as its patterns before and after mid 20th century, before and after wide spread use of fossil fuel, are nearly identical.

    [Response: Brilliant in all regards.–Jim]

    Comment by Girma — 7 May 2011 @ 4:43 PM

  107. Excellent graph Girma,
    Overlaying the oscillating nature of the temperature graph atop the linear increase of 0.6C/century really puts everything in perspective. I have been arguing this for a while, but have not seen as good a graph as you just referenced. Continuing on our current trend will result in temperatures 0.2C higher than today by the year 2100. Hardly much to get excited about, and part of the reason that many people are rejecting some of the higher predictions of 2C or more. This does not negate the possibility of mankind being the cause of the linear portion of the increase, but does show just how much out of range the IPCC predictions are, and I am truly amazing that some people think those predictions are too low.

    [Response: It’s not often that I pull out the John McEnroe reference, but you earned it. You have very serious holes in your understanding Dan.–Jim]

    Comment by Dan H. — 7 May 2011 @ 6:33 PM

  108. j6p: hardly worth the trouble, but the “taken to the cleaners” was your statement that I turned backatcha. I suggested you read up and referred you to some real information, and you came back with typical evasion. Your pretence that these are some other people is belied by your acceptance of the idea represented by your words. Others more able than I have also responded, but it appears you are not interested in doing your homework.

    However, here are the references once again. Please get cracking. This is boring and does not belong here unless you are willing to give it some thought and time.

    A good place to start:

    As I understand it, the owners of this blog are willing to tolerate genuine questions but you are beginning to demonstrate that you have a closed mind, and most here have real work to do and would like to get back to it.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 7 May 2011 @ 7:05 PM

  109. hey girma [Orssengo],

    Thought you said you’d been banned here and wanted me to represent you. [guys, he offered me money but perhaps that’s so I’d look bad and/or give up my personal email.] Suggest your responders take a look at your website and see if it’s real. hides as well as shortens.

    Thankfully, here I don’t need to do my inadequate best as many others are up to the task. They only tolerate me because I mostly mind my p’s and q’s, admit what I don’t know, and am willing to admit I’m wrong, which I’ve not yet seen from any fake skeptics.


    Comment by Susan Anderson — 7 May 2011 @ 7:13 PM

  110. 103 Susan Anderson

    I have made several points in this series, so I am confused by your #105 and #103.

    Point 1: You would never find me saying that uncertainty about something proved that something to be wrong. Apparently we agree on that. Neither would I say that an uncertainty proved that something to be right. I am not sure where you are on this, but it sounds like you would be ok with incorrect thinking if it led to a conclusion you already endorse.

    Point 2: Also, I also was attempting to point out the logical impossibility of using a recent climate event to demonstrate global warming when a similar event was worse 80 years ago.

    Point 3: You say you understand how science works and have excellent physicist sources. When you say that my ‘claims’ disagree with your sources, I suggest that science would lead you to note what claims you are referring to and to explain why they are disagreeable.

    Point 4: The ‘efficiency of an electric motor compared to efficiency’ of an internal combustion engine’ is often asserted as proof that an electric vehicle is an important climate solution. As I discussed, this is gibberish and simply because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, it is not logically possible for an ‘excellent physicist’ to think otherwise. How your understanding of physics relates to this I have no knowledge, and addressing you on this happened because you mentioned a book that would seem to be about this subject.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 7:46 PM

  111. 88 Hank Roberts,

    Right you are, though it is hard to know what physical processes are represented by these numbers.

    It is still ok to count a big gain for carpools, though this is about the last change in human behavior that I would count on.

    Extrapolation of reported carpooling results should not begin until it is noted that most of the carpoolers are people that would be riding together anyway. In California it was necessary to make the carpool rule apply if two or more ride together. Thus, there is not a lot of reason to extrapolate very far. My observations are that carpool lanes are used by, first, cars with husband and wife, second, cars with a mother and a child, and, occassionally, two construction workers riding to a work site. Exclude these that already ride together and the California carpool lanes could be safely used for shuffleboard games.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 8:16 PM

  112. For example, I just heard that the terrible tornado season is due to global warming and also that it is the worst tornado season since 1935. What is wrong with this statement? – Jim Bullis

    Not saying I don’t trust your hearing, but I would prefer to read what they actually said before pondering what is wrong with their statement.

    Comment by JCH — 7 May 2011 @ 8:54 PM

  113. re95 from joe6pak and Jim’s response:
    here’s the story joe references, which oddly enough ignores the fact that much of the Canadian praries had a poor crop last year due to unusually wet conditions, and that right at the moment something over a million acres of that same land is under water at spring planting time, and is projected to be so for as much as another month. Of course we can’t blame the record flooding on AGW. The study abstract is here.

    [Response: Thanks for the links here and earlier. Complete distortion by the Vancouver paper–most prominently in the headline of course– of what the Science article actually addresses and concludes. Classic negligence (giving them the benefit of the doubt).–Jim]

    Comment by flxible — 7 May 2011 @ 9:53 PM

  114. 112 JCH

    I mentioned something I had heard, which of course has to depend on my hearing. Not too surprising, what I heard is not available to read. Surely you have heard such things. But forget the hearing stuff. Let’s go to something you can read, which I paste here for your reading pleasure:

    “If I live in the deep south and I see the worst tornado outbreak in 85 years, or near Memphis and see the Mississippi crest at it’s highest measured level, or in western Oklahoma and see the longest streak of low-precipitation days in over 100 years, then yes, that’s going to affect my judgement.”

    Now I ask similarly as before, what is wrong with the quoted statement as an analysis of evidence of global warming?

    [Response: You’re taking what I said out of context and thereby missing the point. I was countering the idea that if you just “look out your window” in North America, you will not observe any obvious changes or events that will indicate that climate change is occurring. This idea originated from a completely bogus newspaper headline/article that Joe6pack linked to, out of Vancouver BC which completely and utterly got wrong the main points of an article which appeared in Science (online only) this week, which flixible, John Pearson, and my response to John, have all pointed to. You then quote here ,what I said earlier, out of context, to prove that people are claiming that these extreme events are demonstrations of global warming. I’m not claiming any such thing, and if you would have read and understood my response to Pete D, you would understand that. You have a habit of twisting and misinterpreting what people say to fit your viewpoint, and I’m tired of it. If you continue to do it, I’ll just delete your comments, because I don’t have time to lead you by the hand through things that you should have figured out on your own. Got it?–Jim]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 9:57 PM

  115. #108 Susan

    My “taken to the cleaners” statement was not referring to the CRU Hack event.
    I was referring to the 08-09 financial crisis where big Banks took people to the cleaners.

    Comment by Joesixpack — 7 May 2011 @ 10:28 PM

  116. “Why don’t the two of you go take each other for a ride?”

    Dear CM, and respected moderator. I have been a reader of this blog from almost when it started, and wish to do so in the future too. I am not professional in climate sensitivity, but I am a professional futurist, and I try to be responsible in how I estimate what socioeconomic and political solutions are possible/efficient and how society responds overall to these issues. It is my sincere hope to try and do what I can to spread the understanding that we need to mitigate and adapt in all the ways that are possible and efficient.

    I find it slightly troubling that my posting that showed reference to inside opinions on how the greens hinder efficient mitigation and adaptation efforts is considered off topic, but how clearly off topic this ad hominem attacks against me and Jim Bullis are considered appropriate instead. If CM intended to cast doubt on my motives, he referred to 11 years old very high risk investment of a futurist. Clearly to my mind, that should be irrelevant to whatever is discussed here. And currently the engine the referred personally major but globally insignificant investment was used on is adapted to run on renewables.

    Comment by Risto Linturi — 8 May 2011 @ 12:48 AM

  117. Dan H:

    I am truly amazing

    At least he got that right.

    Comment by Chris O'Neill — 8 May 2011 @ 2:52 AM

  118. Dan H., Girma,

    Poor Baby Jesus must have been shivering at 12 degrees below present… ah, the joys of extrapolation ;-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 8 May 2011 @ 9:26 AM

  119. Dan H. 107: Please disregard earlier comments I made to you. When I spoke to you previously it was the first comment of yours that I had read and assumed you only had misunderstood that there is no consensus on the effect of global heating on ENSO, etc. Now I see that I am treading perilously close to a Pearson’s first law violation.

    [Response: …And from another forum which we have both since departed, I know exactly what that law is John…and yes you are.–Jim]

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 8 May 2011 @ 9:27 AM

  120. “So when you say that the impact of global warming on climate is obvious, I say, ‘Huh?’ Yes, it seems so in some cases but many times, not so much.For example, I just heard that the terrible tornado season is due to global warming and also that it is the worst tornado season since 1935.” Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 2:23 PM

    Jim, I have a pair of dice that I rolled 3600 times, and I got 203 snake eyes. I just rolled them one more time, and got snake eyes; was that a random event, or are the dice loaded?

    “Point 2: Also, I also was attempting to point out the logical impossibility of using a recent climate event to demonstrate global warming when a similar event was worse 80 years ago.” Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 7:46 PM

    We don’t have just one roll of the dice, or just one recent climate event, but a string of observations –
    “…you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” I don’t.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 8 May 2011 @ 11:49 AM

  121. Risto,

    I’m sorry, that was immature of me (I just thought the coincidence was too precious to pass up), and rude to a relative stranger (Jim Bullis took it in good humor, but he and I have had amicable differences in the past on the merits of his arguments). To the extent there was an implied ad hom, I’m sure folks here will know to disregard it. Regarding criticism of the moderation here, I offer this golden rule: for what little gets suppressed, thank the moderators; for what gets through, blame the posters.

    Comment by CM — 8 May 2011 @ 12:08 PM

  122. In days gone by we had “Natual Philosophers”. Scientists types and all manner of folks would collect the data and build the knowledge bank. Natural Philosophers would add understanding, perspective and communicate.

    I’m thinking this might be something we could re-establish. It would certainly take the heat off scientists and they could focus unhindered with their research.

    Comment by Titus — 8 May 2011 @ 2:48 PM

  123. “Denial is apparently caused by our lizard brainstem”. I wonder which part of the brain causes gullibility.

    Comment by Peter Kirkos — 8 May 2011 @ 9:31 PM

  124. The paper on crop yields does not include the word “protein”.

    [Response: ?]

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 8 May 2011 @ 10:07 PM

  125. Bullis:

    “Point 2: Also, I also was attempting to point out the logical impossibility of using a recent climate event to demonstrate global warming when a similar event was worse 80 years ago.” Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 7 May 2011 @ 7:46 PM

    Mortality’s a poor proxy for the extent of tornado outbreaks – particularly when you go back decades -, which themselves are an imperfect proxy for the size of the supercells which lead to them (in combination with cool air descending from the north).

    Comment by dhogaza — 8 May 2011 @ 11:49 PM

  126. 121 CM

    I found that Risto is interested in some very interesting things, some more futuristic than others.

    It is interesting how futuristic thinking can lead to more immediate technology, in his case, his interest in VTOL aircraft seems to have tied in to a new generation of small Wankel engines, which could be interesting in a high efficiency car of the sort that I advocate.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 9 May 2011 @ 3:16 AM

  127. CM, lol, ok. Just sounded so much like “take a hike”, or “go fly a kite”. I was not sure it was not hostile, and I was still recovering from my surprise of the removal of my message, which I still think was relevant to the discussion but not apparently so. But back to the point. It is very difficult to talk about denial in its various forms without understanding the human trait – not to think rationally – but to follow packages of thought and opinion leaders who own those packages. In US i.e. it seems Republicans are against anything that comes from Democrats. In Finland the packaging is different. Our conservatives do believe in global warming and support actions.

    Another issue is, when you see someone claim one thing but then act differently, it is quite difficult to believe they are sincere. This is what Brand basically claims the green movement is doing, paying lip service to global warming, but not really giving up on any other targets to show that global warming would be first priority. My basic claim is that it would be so much easier for most people to believe in global warming if the suggested action would show higher priority to mitigation efforts than the traditional agenda (if i.e. nukes, GE and cities would be at least considered as a solution instead of dogmatic negation Brand shows to be true too often). Currently it seems that many groups use global warming as an excuse to drive their old agenda, but the old agenda seems more important than fighting climate change with the available tools. This is not as apparent denial as what is usually being considered in these pages, but it does undermine the importance of the needed action and I would consider it more efficient hindrance than denial at least in Europe where the green movement is a real political force.

    Comment by Risto Linturi — 9 May 2011 @ 6:14 AM

  128. 120 Brian Dodge:

    Yes your dice are loaded. If they weren’t loaded you’d have gotten snake eyes about 100 times.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 9 May 2011 @ 7:48 AM

  129. Yes John,
    His dice are definitely loaded to arrive at his results. Also, I cannot find a reference to a deadly 1935 tornado season. Perhaps he was referring to the infamous “tri-state tornado” of 1925. Data from NOAA since 1950 shows that 1974 was the worst for strong tornadoes (F3+), which is a better indicator as many smaller funnel clouds went unreported prior to the latest detection methods.

    All in all, tornadic activity is a poor measure of a changing climate.

    [Response: Might be, might not be. You’re welcome to provide definitive evidence, instead of assertions, in the open thread–Jim]

    Comment by Dan H. — 9 May 2011 @ 10:18 AM

  130. I’ve been hiding after letting my feelings get the better of my common sense and knowledge in the attack on girma (109) for which I apologize. The facts about his offer are true, and I find his clever misdirection annoying, but that is no excuse for arguing outside what I know and am able to understand, and getting personal with it, not to mention making it way too much about me.

    I will leave it to others to take a look at that cute graphic and see what it says. I don’t get that it says anything worthwhile or new about heat trapping gases and their causality, though.

    I’ve been expecting a classic Ray Ladbury WTF for my excess, but am glad the discussion has moved on without me.

    Nonetheless, I stand corrected, and will try to avoid getting too big for my boots here again.

    Jim Bullis, I thought I said you could have the last word. If I didn’t, I meant to … go ahead, have another … and another … I still like the way Michael Tobis’s mind works and it is helping me get my pointy little head redirected into the zone of reality and difficult/easy ideas.

    At the risk of cluttering up his blog with nonsense (he’s a worker) here it is:

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 9 May 2011 @ 10:20 AM

  131. The following post seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Without it the discussion flow is hard to follow.

    9 May 2011 at 2:36 AM
    120 Brian Dodge,

    If you read carefully you should realize that I am criticizing the manner of presenting a case, where illogical statements serve to weaken the case. A first chicken little, a second chicken little, and a third chicken little might result in orders to shoot chickens. I am suggesting that a ‘chicken little event’ is an event with an accompanying ‘worst since 1930 etc. descriptor’.

    However, from your probability illustration, I do see your point, and were there to be many extreme events each year to work with, and twice as many extreme events in present years than in the past, that would carry weight.
    Perhaps there are some analyses of weather events that make the case as I would hope to see it made.

    Obviously you see obviousness in your observations. I am not there yet, though I do recognize a serious underlying problem due to excess of CO2. So much so that I am working to build motor vehicles that would dramatically change things; also I have been pursuing ways to capture CO2 from the air and ways to generate electric power without the excessive waste of heat that we now are doing.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 9 May 2011 @ 3:11 PM

  132. 129 Dan H

    The tornado history was based on a hypothetical premise by moderator under #95. I would not waste time trying to look it up.

    [Response: Wrong again. It was in fact *you* who first mentioned 1935 as some sort of significant date. Strike two.–Jim]

    The discussion was about how people’s perception can be influenced.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 9 May 2011 @ 3:17 PM

  133. Jim Bullis – what was more severe in ~1935? The number of tornadoes? The strength? The death count? people may inform me otherwise if I am wrong about this, but in most news accounts it appears they are saying in the past in Alabama, around 1932, more people died during a tornado event. Since 1932, considerable work has been done to make it less likely people will die in a tornado event. So how should the two episodes be compared?

    So, what is wrong with the statement? More importantly, what may be wrong with what you think is wrong with the statement?

    Comment by JCH — 9 May 2011 @ 5:27 PM

  134. JimBullis – When thinking “about how people’s perception can be influenced”, you might consider when someone says the current flooding along the Mississippi is the worst since xxxx, that literally billions of dollars have been spent since xxxx on mitigation to prevent that flooding from reoccuring …. and it didn’t, which likely means the current situation is way beyond that historic event, not that “it was last matched” then.

    Comment by flxible — 9 May 2011 @ 6:15 PM

  135. @ Response # 124 : Eat more beans

    The yield of food crops, especially beans and grains, is protein, not just mass. The paper uses the expression “CO2 fertilization”, and 558 ppm CO2 but plants can not turn carbon into nitrogen. Soybeans (Fabaceae, Glycine max) with their nitrogen fixing bacteria can keep up protein content, but other plants won’t without nitrogen fertilizer, which will contribute nitric oxide to the atmosphere.

    It has also been found that excess CO2 can make certain agricultural plants less nutritious for human and animal consumption. Zhu 2005, a three-year FACE study, concluded that a 10% decrease in the protein content of rice is expected at 550 ppm, with decreases in iron and zinc contents also found. Similarly, Högy et al. 2009, also a FACE study at 550 ppm, found a 7% drop in protein content for wheat, along with decreased amino acid and iron content. Somewhat ironically, this reduction in nutrient content is partially caused by the very increase in growth rates that CO2 encourages in C3 plants, since rapid growth leaves less time for nutrient accumulation.


    I don’t think great yields will come fields at continuous heat wave temperatures, plagued by drought or flood. And the worlds great forests may already have burned before CO2 gets that high. CO2 – great fertilizer.

    But you knew that.

    [Response: Very nice article there by Dawei. Generally speaking, CO2 is indeed beneficial, but plants are complex critters and there will likely be some negatives and some surprises. Another point is that increased CO2, which acts by reducing photorespiration, which is a C fixation efficiency issue, is not necessarily helpful if your cropping system can’t take advantage of it. I.e., if you can’t get a a second crop in, or if it messes up the timing of weather-dependent criticalities in the plant’s ontogeny, especially pollination and grain formation. Keep in mind that a 1:1 grain:legume crop rotation partially fertilizes the grain crop (a big reason why it’s done).–Jim]

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 9 May 2011 @ 7:16 PM

  136. 129 Dan H and Moderator Jim

    ” – – I see the worst tornado outbreak in 85 years- -,” is the source comment in question, and since the only issue was how things were stated in the pursuit of evidence of global warming, I was careless in subtracting. Humble apologies for that carelessness.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 9 May 2011 @ 7:27 PM

  137. 132, 133 JCH and flxible?

    You would argue that since things have been made more robust to withstand disasters, it makes sense to say ‘it is the worst since – – ‘?

    What you should really be getting to is a statement, “It is the worst ever.” But you are stuck with having to say, well, it is not the worst ever except it would be if things had not been built to reduce damage. But since that raise more questions, you are happy to just say something that logically fails to make your point, and leads some to doubt the general message.

    This is the stuff of failure.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 9 May 2011 @ 7:38 PM

  138. You would argue that since things have been made more robust to withstand disasters, it makes sense to say ‘it is the worst since – – ‘?

    No, I’m saying you need to add in the fact [to your narration] that in spite of the fact that protections have been “upgraded” to withstand previous record breaking events, we are still breaking records. Flood control measures taken in Manitoba, Canada that were judged amply sufficient to deal with the conditions that prompted them [1950 flood] are not sufficient to deal with this years runoff. Now they’re wanting to dump more money into increasing protection to withstand “all time high” 1826 levels, when there was no protection at all and a much smaller population and smaller urban areas to be affected! Governments are the ones who need to quit doubting, the population is starting to understand, especially those outside of the limited area of that “protection”.

    Comment by flxible — 9 May 2011 @ 11:33 PM

  139. Jim Bullis @137

    No, I would argue that somebody has to figure it out. You know, like gather the data and do some analysis. The simplistic “more dead bodies in 1932 means global warming could have nothing to do with the 2011 tornadoes” is stupid on more than one level.

    Pointing that out does not make a conclusion about the final result of a robust analysis.

    And any analysis that does not include the mitigation effect is flawed and probably worthless. Like the rush to find AGW uninvolved in the Queensland flooding. They stood on a graph that included no mitigation effect, so they were standing on garbage.

    Comment by JCH — 9 May 2011 @ 11:35 PM

  140. 138 and 139 flxible and JCH,

    We seem not to speak the same language.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 10 May 2011 @ 1:51 AM

  141. I think there are good reasons to be skeptical. These are as follows.
    a) The cost to do anything about it is enormous, hence a high degree of certainty is required.
    b) The US can’t do much about it anyway. China has taken the lead as the largest C02 producer, and as the next 1,000,000,000 Chinese get their fair share of energy, they will push that number higher.
    c) Climate is complex, and I don’t think humans have a great understanding of it (recall the human gnome project promised all kinds of solutions, but it turns out it is much more complex)
    d) There seems to be a huge emotional component to some AGW scientists, so I don’t trust their work (looking forward to BEST getting out their data/algorithms/code and letting others munch on it for a few years only to get the earth’s temperature right!)

    [Response: I think you are unfair. Please tell us which scientific disciplines practise more openness. and try getting data/algorithms/code from those who argue that AGW is not a problem – see my attempt reported in the NewScientist. -rasmus]

    e) If this is such a big deal, why aren’t the global warming people more willing to share their data/algorithms/code in a meaningful way.

    [Response: Please see this commment.]

    f) IPCC, greens, and others have made preposterous claims, which in the end has probably alienated people from the global warming cause.

    [Response: The contents of the IPCC reports should reflect the scientific literature, and the drafting of this report should be transparent. Hence, any claim should be based on the assessment of results published in the scientific literature. This is probably different from whatever is meant by “greens”. Please provide a logical connection. You argue for transparency, but I see none behind the claims that you present. -rasmus]

    With a spokesman like Al Gore “the Seas will Rise, the Pestilence, Plague, Drought, and Famine will rule the earth,” and other such old testament claptrap, you are going to find a lot of people associating that catastrophe with AGW, and thinking to themselves “Not likely.” The point is, with opportunists like that out there, leading credence to AGW could enable even more parasites to add no value (as an example of this, I live in a tiny town in California, and it took Federal money, which was 40 – 100 times the annual electric cost of its street lights, to replace them with LEDs. Please agree that is insane!)

    g) As I don’t think there is much that can be done about it, I don’t see much need to get off the fence. Study the problem, observe, and let’s see how the models match up to the reality. (As Richard Muller pointed out, buying Priuses in the US isn’t going to solve the C02 problem.)

    Changing to an all nuclear source of fuel might, and I wish the stimulus money had been spent on that. My skepticism goes only so far. I do agree there is some non-zero, real chance that AGW will occur if it hasn’t, though I also suspect all this doom and gloom is grossly overstated as a way for unscrupulous people to take money away from others. And I would like to take the obvious, meaningful steps, like encouraging Nuclear, perhaps making it cheaper than Coal at some point. Oh well, that’s probably not in the cards for the average warmista.

    Comment by OK Skeptic — 10 May 2011 @ 3:41 AM

  142. It’s bad enough when the average person on the street engaqes in denialism, unfortunately even scientists are not immune. The reality is that humanity is at a major turning point, the paradigm that our entire global civilization is based on is no longer valid in a resource constrained world. Humans are in population overshoot and are severly impacting every major ecosystem on the planet. There is little doubt that climate change is occuring and that human activity is a large part of the problem. However it is time for all the little wise men stuck in their narrow views and perspectives to stand back and take in the whole elephant and realize that it is not a snake or a rope or a tree or a brick wall. We are at the end of age of fossil fuels and the implications for our way of life is profound. Climate science does not exist in a vacuum it is woven into the fabric of all the complex non linear feedback loops that are shaking our world views to the core. Our current civilization is FUBAR! We need a new more holistic approach to solving our problems. We all need to find a way to power down.

    Closing the first morning was another name of weight: Jean-Pascal van Ypersèle, Vice-President of the IPCC. He reviewed the usual hallmarks of the subject and went on to the CO2 emissions scenarios. He presented the SRES scenarios from the last IPCC assessment report, though somewhat acknowledging the surreality of most of them. But according to the latest knowledge gathered by the IPCC, even with the lowering of the SRES scenario (B1) anthropogenic CO2 emissions must turn negative by 2060 to avoid global temperatures rising above 2ºC of where they are today. During the debate session, Kyell Aleklett emphasized that not even the B1 scenario is possible with the knowledge his research group has gathered on fossil fuel reserves. Tension built up between the two men in a “my problem is worse than yours” mood that was anything but scientific. In the afternoon sessions climate change was again on the menu and so was the side taking; Aviel Verbruggen for instance had a very strong “I do not believe in Peak Oil” attitude amid his address. Certainly, the two camps have still some way to go before reaching common ground.

    But what’s really behind these apparently non-reconcilable views? In the scientific plane, ASPO has tried to particularly influence the disciplines of economics and systems engineering in a way that they could incorporate the concepts of fossil fuels finitude and net energy into their anticipation tools. The conference had several presentations by modellers, or on models such as the address by the IPCC’s Vice-President and a few more in the parallel sessions on afternoons of the first two days. Whilst to some extent these models are starting to acknowledge the finitude of oil, the same can’t be said about natural gas or coal. But above all, modellers and models alike seem to be ages away from realizing what net energy is and its implications on the resource substitution process and usage scalability.

    Comment by Fred Magyar — 10 May 2011 @ 4:25 AM

  143. Good point JCH,
    Advanced warning reduces tornado fatalities compared to earlier years, and flood control at the dam influences the flow of water downstream.
    When you include parameters that have a greater impact than the event which you are monitoring, the results can be quite erratic. Akin to the Literary Digest poll which predicted a big win for Alf Landon.

    Comment by Dan H. — 10 May 2011 @ 6:51 AM

  144. “Yes your dice are loaded. If they weren’t loaded you’d have gotten snake eyes about 100 times.” John E. Pearson 9 May 2011 at 7:48 AM

    But did I get snake eyes on my last roll because the dice were loaded, or was that a random event? What about the folloing – random events or AGW loaded dice?

    sea ice melt”” and accelerating glacier loss” Wettest March on record in Australia Record wet January brings unprecedented flooding to northwest Victoria Exceptional winter heat over large parts of Australia Six years of widespread drought in southern and eastern Australia, November 2001 to October 2007 Climate conditions preceding the December 2006 southeast Australian bushfires Issued 19th December 2006
    Just a string of bad luck? “The 2003 European heat wave is one of the hottest summers on record in Europe, especially in France. The heat wave led to health crises in several countries and combined with drought to create a crop shortfall in Southern Europe. More than 40,000 Europeans died as a result of the heat wave.” “Jul 11, 2005 … France is facing its worst water shortage since 1976”
    Snake eyes? “It was not even officially summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but Pakistan was in the midst of a deadly heat wave when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured the top image on June 10, 2007. ” “‘Hellish heatwave’ in Pakistan sets hottest temperature in Asia’s history, 53.5°C (128.3°F); in India, hundreds die, death toll expected to rise as record temperatures soar up to 122°F – June 1, 2010”
    More snake eyes? “Russia’s record heat wave may already have taken 15,000 lives and cost the economy $15 billion as fires and drought ravage the country.”
    How much are you willing to lose? Is just random chance, and our luck will change? I’d rather ask some experts, than just relying on what I see out my window. “Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”
    Hmmm. How bout the opinion of somebody who’s responsible for putting billions of dollars (of insurance money) where his mouth is – Dr. Peter Hoeppe, Head of the Geo Risks Research Department at Munich Re –
    ” I never said that 2010 is the year with the highest number of weather related loss events, it is the second highest after 2007. Currently (December 23) we have reached the number of 931 nat cat loss events, 849 of them being caused by weather related events. The still record year is 2007 with a total of 1043 events, 943 weather related. For me the most convincing piece of evidence that global warming has been contributing already to more and more intense weather related natural catastrophes is the fact that while we find a steep increase in the number of loss relevant weather events (about tripling in the last 30 years) we only find a slight increase in geophysical (earthquake, volcano, tsunami) events, which should not be affected by global warming. If the whole trend we find in weather related disaster should be caused by reporting bias, or socio-demographic or economic developments we would expect to find it similarly for the geophysical events.”

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 10 May 2011 @ 7:41 AM

  145. Regarding OK’s comments about preposterous claims alienating people, he has a point. One false claim does not negate the whole, but if it compounded by others, people tend to question the entire cause. Toyota is going through this currently.
    The IPCC had its one major snafu; the Himalayan claim based on non-scientific literature, which itself was in error, but several others have added to the fire. The UNEP claim of 50 million climate refugees by 2010 is currently making the rounds. The MET has taken heat lately for the “Barbecue summers” prediction. Then there was the UCS telling New England ski resorts to consider another profession as snows would be hard to come by. Arcticnet did no favors by predicting an ice-free Arctic as soon as 2010.
    I have read many people state that misinformation is being spread by “big oil” or some other anti-environment organization. However, much of the fuel for the anti-AGW movement has been presented by climatologists who have overstated the effects of a warmer climate. That is not to say that these events will not happen sometime in the future, but people look at these failed climate predictions as a failure of the whole. I feel that there are many who have allowed these types of predictions to propagate in order to bring attention to the issue. Unfortunately, the attention is not necessarily that which was hoped for.

    Comment by Dan H. — 10 May 2011 @ 9:23 AM

  146. OK Skeptic rambles:

    I live in a tiny town in California, and it took Federal money, which was 40 – 100 times the annual electric cost of its street lights, to replace them with LEDs. Please agree that is insane!

    Eh, there are other costs besides electricity. How often were those incandescent or sodium or whatever lamps replaced? How much did that cost in lamps? How much in labor?

    …and how long will those LEDs last? Have you ever seen a LED burn out? I suppose they do sometimes, but have yet to see it.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 10 May 2011 @ 9:39 AM

  147. OK Skeptic (141) often heard claim a) should really be changed to: The cost to do anything about it is enormous, hence a high degree of RISK is required.

    With uncertainties going in both directions but skewed towards the worse rather than the better outcomes, uncertainty makes the risk higher. I wish we knew more: I’d probably (though not certainly, just to make it complicated) feel a lot safer if we did.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 10 May 2011 @ 9:46 AM

  148. Dan H wrote: “However, much of the fuel for the anti-AGW movement has been presented by climatologists who have overstated the effects of a warmer climate.”

    And of course there are people like you who systematically misrepresent what the climatologists have said, for example by falsely describing scenarios as “predictions”, and who systematically ignore the overwhelming empirical evidence that the ongoing “effects of a warmer climate” are already exceeding the worst-case scenarios contemplated by the IPCC.

    Moderators, while granting that Dan H. writes politely, he has nonetheless demonstrated that he is a dishonest purveyor of bogus denialist talking points. I respectfully request that consider consigning him to the Bore Hole.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 May 2011 @ 9:59 AM

  149. OK Skeptic wrote: “With a spokesman like Al Gore ‘the Seas will Rise, the Pestilence, Plague, Drought, and Famine will rule the earth,’ and other such old testament claptrap …”

    When you blatantly and maliciously lie, to people who know better, about what Al Gore has said, why should you expect anything in response but derision and contempt?

    Rasmus demonstrates heroic patience in his responses to your copied-and-pasted litany of dishonest Ditto-Head denialist talking points. It is far better than you deserve.

    Are the moderators relaxing their standards for this thread, so as to allow such offensively ignorant and stupid bunkum to be posted as examples of the “denialism” that is the subject of the book review?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 May 2011 @ 10:09 AM

  150. Dan H.

    So you would reather scientists always underplay the risks just to preserve appearances? That’s sounds like the kind of thing that leads to real disasters (think Challenger for instance).

    Look, some predictions will always be wrong. There were certainly incorrect predictions on the low side as well (sea level rise, Arctic Ice) – it’s just those haven’t been amplified by the echo chamber out there that tries to paint the scientific body as self interested in the outcome of this debate – which it really is not.

    I think it is a horrible idea to force scientists to be conservative just for the purposes of “appearance.” You want open discussion of the data, unconstrained by fears of being perceived as biased. Bias should be assessed by those with enough background to understand the usefulness and limits of the data, models etc. Introducing a criterion that renders some predictions less sound simply because they are inconvenient to society at large is incredibly dangerous to society.

    I think the challenge is how to preserve rigorous scientific debate in the face of the obvious and real pressure being exerted from outside science.

    Comment by Stephen Baines — 10 May 2011 @ 11:45 AM

  151. “However, much of the fuel for the anti-AGW movement has been presented by climatologists who have overstated the effects of a warmer climate.”

    Evidence, please?

    It was “climatologists”–well, glaciologists–who pointed out Himalayagate. I’m admittedly not very familiar with the other cases cited, but on the face of it only the example has a timeline associated with it. (And it’s so far out of the mainstream that it’s valueless as an exemplar.) At that, did really predict it–that is, say it WOULD happen–or merely say that it COULD happen?

    (FWIW, I suspect it may be a hash-up of Dr. Maslowski’s call of a largely (not completely) ice Arctic summer by 2016 (+/- 3.))

    I’ve repeatedly noted denialists similarly misrepresenting what various people have said–for example, on hurricanes I could name an individual who repeatedly insists that the few quiet hurricane years we’ve had recently somehow ‘falsify’ the prediction that we will see fewer, but more intense tropical cyclones–never mind that that prediction refers to the whole twenty-first century!

    Or take Himalayagate–an embarrassing error, to be sure, but an (egregiously) wrong melt date for one region becomes a much-repeated claim that “the UN lied about melting glaciers.” Never mind that the bulk of what was said about glaciers was quite correct and well-supported.

    Or–well, I could go on, but perhaps you’ll forgive me if I suspect similar ‘message creep’ in the supposedly falsified climate predictions supposedly made by (unnamed) ‘climatologists?’

    This claim that ‘exaggerrating climatologists’ are to blame is particularly galling in view of the fact that the IPCC under Dr. Bert Bolin deliberately cultivated a culture of great conservatism in their claims, precisely in order to safeguard their credibility.

    This was a principled and well-intended stance, but in hindsight you have to wonder–the denial machine has had considerable success by systematically misrepresenting the IPCC–and many of the worst-case scenarios the IPCC eschewed in their conservatism remain pretty much off most people’s radar.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 May 2011 @ 12:18 PM

  152. 144 Brian Dodge,

    The data from Munich Re carries far more weight with me than all the anecdotal evidence on your long list.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 10 May 2011 @ 4:31 PM

  153. OK Skeptic,
    your list of reasons is essentially versions of misdirected mistrust of science and misplaced trust of other sources and their unfounded claims.

    First, “The cost to do anything about it is enormous ….”
    The cost of business as usual (BAU) is far greater. The cost of climate disruption will be the enormous cost. If we continue burning carbon as you wish, atmospheric CO2 will easily go above 550 ppm. How high was sea level the last time that happened? Meanwhile we do not acknowledge the costs of carbon based energy. The pollution, environmental and health costs of coal, it faced, would make it much more expensive than its official price. Oil brings pollution, foreign dependence, and is a factor in our troubled relationship with the middle east. Chalk up some of the defense budget to oil.
    Second, blame China … so all is vanity. No, the US must act and lead. Saying others must go first is the road to destruction.
    Then later: buying Priuses won’t solve the problem
    Future models will be plug-in optional electric. Electric cars, and decarbonizing the grid plus roof top or backyard solar power will help plenty. It is basic knowledge that a combination of 15 or so fairly large moves will be needed to do what we should do, so of course no one move is the whole solution. This is displayed nicely in a pie chart of 15 wedges somewhere.

    Note that all that “all is vanity” stuff serves the interests of Big Carbon (and is a collection of bad arguments).

    Then: “I don’t think humans have a great understanding of it (climate).”
    Speak for yourself. Scientists understand climate quite well enough to know that continuing with BAU is folly.

    Then: a misguided statement about “preposterous claims.” That’s just a slur based on not knowing science. Most commenters here at least read research papers. It is true that the denial industry uses incorrect statements (often made up by them) to push false doubt. What you may not know is the deniers make preposterous claims over and over, and little else.

    Then a crack about Al Gore. I didn’t take it as meant to be a real quote. I don’t think that matters for your argument. Just saying his name refutes atmospheric science in the view of some. Learn science and your appreciation for him will grow. But if you are among those who can not reason well when his name is used, do yourself a favor and leave him out of your deliberations.

    Consider that the chance that you are right and physics is wrong is nil. Then consider that if you are wrong, and your consul to do nothing is heeded, the human cost will be extreme. And consider that although there is initial cost to replacing old power plants with renewable energy, we will be better off when it is done. Can you in fairness still consul no action?

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 10 May 2011 @ 6:13 PM

  154. c) Climate is complex, and I don’t think humans have a great understanding of it (recall the human gnome project promised all kinds of solutions, but it turns out it is much more complex)

    Ah yes, the human gnome project. Is this the one where we were trying to breed a shorter race of humans to live in underground caves in case the surface becomes uninhabitable?

    Comment by Nibi — 10 May 2011 @ 7:34 PM

  155. Republican factory owners killed your family and friends in the catastrophic blizzards, floods, tornadoes, massive wildfires and other climate change that has been wiping out the bible-belt. This is the Climate Change that their factories created. This is the Climate Change that the Republicans lie about not existing. This is the Climate Change that they program their constituents to deny exists. This is the Climate Change that killed people, destroyed homes, further destroyed the economy that the Republican factories emissions caused so they could make profits by killing those people. Republicans deny Climate Change at all costs in order to keep their factories from having to pay to stop it. The Climate Change that is destroying massive pats of our country can no longer be hidden or denied.

    Comment by Dave Parker — 10 May 2011 @ 7:40 PM

  156. SecularAnimist@148 – Check out the BoreHole occasionally just for the entertainment value, you’ll find Dan posts much more there than here. ;)

    Comment by flxible — 10 May 2011 @ 9:17 PM

  157. OK Skeptic says, “The cost to do anything about it is enormous, hence a high degree of certainty is required.”


    First, argument from consequences is a logical fallacy. Second: risk analysis–YER DOIN’ IT WRONG! What matters is the risk versus the cost of mitigation. If the risk (probability x consequences) is high, we should be mitigating even low-probability threats.

    b)–Newsflash, bucko. Energy!=CO2. And if the US comes up with a solution, that’s a billion Chinese who will be our customers!

    OK Skeptic: “Climate is complex, and I don’t think humans have a great understanding of it (recall the human gnome project promised all kinds of solutions, but it turns out it is much more complex)”

    You don’t think? Well fortunately, you don’t have to. You could look at the fricking evidence–which is pretty overwhelming. And NOT understanding the threat is even worse! It makes it all that much more imperative to act, because we can’t bound the risk.

    OK Skeptic: “There seems to be a huge emotional component to some AGW scientists, so I don’t trust their work …”

    [edit] You’re saying that because scientists are passionate about their work, you don’t trust them! Did it ever occur to you that that very passion to understand the climate is what guarantees they won’t lie! This issue has been known for over a frigging century. The story has not changed in that entire time. [edit]

    e)–again, [edit] Look at the top of this page. See, in the middle. Data Sources. Knock yourself out!

    f)–Dude, your entire spiel consists of preposterous claims and slanderous inuendo. Oh and there it is, the ubiquitous Al Gore is fat fallacy. Bingo!

    g)Great logic. You don’t think we can do anything, so you’ll sell your kids’ futures down the river.

    And as to nukes–we have some lively debates on that here. We have some anti-nuke commenters, some pro-nuke commenters, and I am neutral.

    Now maybe if you want to turn off Faux News and their lies for a few hours, you can come back and learn something real about Earth’s climate– [edit] Freakin’ Mahalo.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 May 2011 @ 9:40 PM

  158. Denial is a sign of fear. People who keep on denying the reality of climate change are like burying their heads under sand trying to escape from the reality of life. Whether they like it or not our climate has really change not just based on an unproven theory but based on scientifically proven reality.

    Comment by Valerio — 10 May 2011 @ 10:54 PM

  159. #141

    “the human gnome project”? Is that funded by Travelocity?

    Comment by Jerry Steffens — 11 May 2011 @ 9:14 AM

  160. Martin Vermeer, the two-year old stop light on my street has about 1/8 of its LED array burnt out. (The other 13 lights at this intersection are still fine.)

    Comment by Rod B — 11 May 2011 @ 1:10 PM

  161. Against my better judgment, I thought I’d weigh in on the skeptic record using OK Skeptic’s #141 as a reference.
    a) The cost to do anything about it is enormous, hence a high degree of certainty is required.
    This is very valid, though the enormity of the cost per se is not a reason for being skeptical. But if there is skepticism with part of the science to begin with, the enormous cost is reason for demanding extreme scientific rationale to mitigate the skepticism. While I understand the risk analysis Ray describes, it becomes ethereal in this situation: in the extreme it approaches an infinite cost of BAU which means GW must be stopped even if its probability is zero. Non-interesting answer as mathematicians would say.

    b) The US can’t do much about it anyway. [Etc…..]
    This is not a justification for skepticism. In fact it seems to assume GW as a premise, but as it’s ‘too big to fight’ we should just enjoy what we can till we all die. Seems a no-op.

    c) Climate is complex, and I don’t think humans have a great understanding of it…
    This is solid justification for skepticism as long as one can delineate the area of the science where skepticism might be warranted. I would quibble with the wording: I think there is a “great” understanding of the science; I don’t think there is a “complete” understanding enough in some areas. As a sidebar, a skeptic need not prove the science behind his skepticism, but just have reasonable scientific doubts.

    d) There seems to be a huge emotional component to some AGW scientists, so I don’t trust their work…. followed by e)… If this is such a big deal, why aren’t the global warming people more willing to share…
    I think the huge emotional component hurts greatly the effort to convince the skeptic otherwise, but again I don’t think this is cause per se for skepticism in the first place. Nefarious and suspicious looking activity doesn’t help either, though I think this is a very small portion of the “emotional” response, which is mainly a result of their feeling strongly about what they think they know.

    Actually I think “emotion” is not the best word her. Hyperbolic, strident, even alarming might be more apt, and is the cause of this problem, as in Dan H’s #145 (ignoring for the moment the ubiquitous retort that ‘they never said that…’).

    f) IPCC, greens, and others have made preposterous claims, which in the end has probably alienated people from the global warming cause.
    This is true as I implied above. But – semantics – this is more a reason for remaining skeptical than being skeptical. Also, to clarify ala rasmus, preposterous claims is an individual thing and not a constant homogeneous activity across all warmists (scientists or not).

    g) As I don’t think there is much that can be done about it, I don’t see much need to get off the fence…
    Sitting on the fence because ‘nothing can be done’ is a no-op as I said above. Sitting because not much should be done makes more sense. But even then as skepticism maintains the possibility that CAGW still might be valid, mitigation or abatement efforts that are minimally disruptive or that will need or ought to be done anyway should move ahead. Literal fence sitting seldom accomplishes much in any scenario. (OK Skeptic did support doing something.)

    This all seemed better in my mind than it does on paper. Sorry. Must be my non-evolved reptilian brain (stem)!

    Comment by Rod B — 11 May 2011 @ 1:25 PM

  162. Rod B wrote: “… though the enormity of the cost per se is not a reason for being skeptical …”

    The stridently alarmist, hyperbolic, scare-mongering exaggerations of the supposed “enormity of the cost” of phasing out fossil fuels, which do not stand up to impartial scrutiny, are indeed good reason to be skeptical of denialists who call themselves “skeptics”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 11 May 2011 @ 3:29 PM

  163. Some stereotypes refuse to die. Along with the book reviewed above, I also ordered Gavin’s Climate Change: Picturing the Science, which looks as great as advertised. I know this because it was DHL’d down to my corner of Europe by Deutsche Post, so it came up my stairs at a brisk trot yesterday morning, whereas Cook & Washington got shipped by Royal Mail, and I’ve been told to expect it by… 31 May. Fog in the Channel, perhaps?

    Meanwhile, Risto’s comment earlier got me started on Stewart Brand’s manifesto. (That one took 45 seconds from order to delivery. The instant gratification of e-books suckers that lizard brainstem of mine into buying stuff I’d never go to a bookstore to find. Authors and publishers, take note.) If it’s not too off-topic, I might offer some impressions of that later on, since I clearly won’t get to do a reader review of Heads in the Sand.

    Comment by CM — 12 May 2011 @ 3:05 AM

  164. Rod B., Your comment(160) was pretty good. You do seem to suffer from a misimpression as to the costs of mitigating climate change–we are talking a few percent of GDP at most. This is quite doable. However, fossil fuel interests (especially coal) are big losers in this, so they will never agree.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 12 May 2011 @ 8:00 AM

  165. #141, 160–

    Horse puckey, as Ray would say. Let’s take it point by point.

    a) The cost to do anything about it is enormous. . .

    Counterfactual premise. There is whole range of possible responses between “enormous” and “nothing.” The adequacy of possible responses is a valid concern, but sometimes a partial payment is very much better than none.

    b) The US can’t do much about it anyway.

    The US, like every other nation, is responsible for its own emissions mess. It can do the right thing, or not. What anyone else does is beside the point from an ethical point of view.

    c) Climate is complex, and I don’t think humans have a great understanding of it…

    Clearly, OK was speaking for himself there.

    d) There seems to be a huge emotional component to some AGW scientists. . .

    Nostalgic for the ’50s, when scientists were (supposedly) emotionless robots? Even they got a little emotional when the Blob threatened to eat their lab. . . which is a flippant way of hinting that, if someone (James Hansen, say) believes that their children’s or grandchildren’s welfare is at risk, they are apt to respond with a little bit more than nonchalance.

    This idea of ’emotional’ scientists begs the question: Where does the emotion come from?

    If you ask them (and who is a better authority on *their* emotions?) they say it proceeds from an existential threat that is hanging over our future. Is it plausible that someone like Dr. Hansen, who has had an enormously successful career by any reasonable standard, is getting anxious about where his next grant is coming from? Get real!

    e)… If this is such a big deal, why aren’t the global warming people more willing to share…

    If OK wants to look at data, I personally can point him to numerous sources online for climate data. And others here–just as much amateurs as I am–are much handier at it. Name one other field that has this kind of data availability for the public. I bet OK can’t!

    f) IPCC, greens, and others have made preposterous claims. . .

    Substantially untrue. Yes, there was the embarrassing gaffe of “Himalayagate.” But that was one factoid in thousands of pages.

    On balance, as I stated above, the IPCC has been extremely restrained in what has been claimed. Have there been advocacy groups who have gone over the top at times? Sure. There was an instance quite recently where RC called out a group for just that.

    But it’s a free country; the IPCC can’t be blamed for what someone else said, any more than I can censure Roy Spencer because OK wrote that “the cost to do anything about it is enormous.”

    g) As I don’t think there is much that can be done about it. . .

    Actually, as I read Rod’s response on this point, it becomes clear to me that he was disagreeing with OK way back in b).
    I didn’t get his implication with the term “no-op.”

    Anyway, OK’s statement strikes me as, frankly, spineless. It’s one thing to say that nothing *should* be done because the threat isn’t real. That’s not supportable by the evidence we have, but at least it’s consistent. But ‘nothing can be done so I’m not going to care’ is a purely self-protective emotional response.

    It’s understandable. Facing existential threats squarely is no fun. The psychological alternative is–yes!–called “denial.”

    Denial is very human. It’s a defence that we all use, and as a card-carrying human, I’m copping to it right here, right now.
    But human as it is, and necessary as it may seem to be from some perspectives, it’s anything but admirable.

    Let’s remember that many people have died because they made the choice to protect their psychological comfort by using denial BEFORE protecting their physical safety! That’s a sad fact often stressed in the early stages of survival training. Step one in doing well in a survival situation is recognizing that that’s what you are dealing with.

    That’s why courage is not only a virtue, but adaptive. That’s why it’s also an important part of our human heritage. And I think that we need it now, more than ever.

    Comment by kevin mckinney — 12 May 2011 @ 9:33 AM

  166. “no-op” is an old computer command which in essence tells the computer that while it always has to run its cycle, the next cycle has nothing of importance or interest to do, so do ‘no operation.’ Mostly used in conversations than code, though, because the nerds thought it cool.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 May 2011 @ 1:16 PM

  167. Ray, a few percent of GDP (if that’s what it is) can be a huge number. Nor does an “enormous cost” exclude “doability. But I was trying to describe skepticism, not debate substance. Some mitigation costs can be enormous (and some not) and a few might deny the amount or not care, and that subset combo can cause people to question the veracity of what that subset/person says – in the vein, ‘ if he’s clearly full of nonsense here, why should I believe his AGW science words.’ Just one possible cause of skepticism.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 May 2011 @ 2:03 PM

  168. Edward Greisch #60: conservation in evolution does not necessarily conserve function. There are parts of the genome that have been conserved for millions of years that have very different functions in different organisms, and the same applies to macroscopic features. That’s why phylogenetic analysis works best with similar species. All that’s required for conservation to apply is that a feature has some function; the human appendix may well disappear given enough time because its absence doesn’t confer any advantage. But the again, whatever encodes for it in the genome may also encode something else. The “reptilian brain” is in any case an outdated concept, though it makes for great rhetoric. If you don’t like reptiles.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 12 May 2011 @ 6:22 PM

  169. There is an all out war on science going on. Schools in the US are threatening that the teaching of global warming must include ‘conservative’ (i.e. denial) views.

    Same as evolution….

    Denial is a Freudian defence mechanism, it is just one of the defence mechanism employed by those who refuse to face up to climate change (look up psych defense mechanisms on Wiki). Projection is another in that climate change is a ‘liberal’ conspiracy.

    Deniers do not question other areas of science (such as plate tectonics unless they are flat earthers). They concentrate on the areas of science they cannot face up to (or where they can win influence over others by pretending they agree with the deniers).

    Of course the motive for denial with evolution is that to not deny it is to think that creationism is wrong. The motive for denying global warming is that everyone fears greater interference with our daily lives by government (fuel taxes and other restrictions on fossil fuel usage). None of those things change the fact that global warming is true (to boot … global warming does not care about the opinions of humans either).

    Comment by Rob Shields — 12 May 2011 @ 7:30 PM

  170. “…all the anecdotal evidence on your long list.” Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 10 May 2011 @ 4:31 PM = Bureau of Meterological Anecdotes? = National Aeronautics and Space Anecdotes? – “In 1981 Bloomberg started out with one core belief: that bringing transparency to capital markets through access to anecdotes could increase capital flows, produce economic growth and jobs, and significantly reduce the cost of doing business?” = Anecdotal Tales of Meteorological Observations at UIUC? = UNEP Division of Early Warning and Anecdotes? = University of Colorado Anecdotal Research division? = blog of MIT physicist and former Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, in charge of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Anecdotes? – a charitable trust owned news organization founded on the principle that “comment is free, but anecdotes are sacred?”

    Who knew?

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 12 May 2011 @ 8:58 PM

  171. I use no-op to avoid negative logic;

    If complexcondition is true then
    Do something
    End if

    Comment by Pete W — 12 May 2011 @ 9:43 PM

  172. Kevin, In computing no-op is short for no operation. It’s a computer command where the CPU goes through a time cycle without doing anything.

    Comment by Dave Werth — 12 May 2011 @ 10:12 PM

  173. #169–

    Too funny, Mr. Dodge!

    Comment by kevin mckinney — 12 May 2011 @ 10:13 PM

  174. 167 Philip Machanick: True. I don’t like ceremonies. Ceremonies are reptilian stereotyped behavior. So what? I was explaining the term for the young people. So how do you explain the human propensity to denialism? And how do you fix it? Dividing the brain into 3 parts is sometimes useful. Newtonian mechanics is still useful too.

    On the 21st of this month, the Rapture is predicted to happen. Since it won’t happen, the believers will believe it all the more because they gave away everything they own. How do you cure that? Is there a drug or a therapy that works? It would be a starting point to deal with GW denialists. So far, we don’t have much of a handle on either problem, if any. We may as well continue talking about reptile brains or future evolution.

    157 Valerio: “Denial is a sign of fear.” Yes, perhaps it is. Suggestions? How about putting a tranquilizing gas into the air? Not. But we need to get creative. Denial is like panic: human emotional reactions that are not useful and are in fact counter-productive and maladaptive. So, what is the medication for panic attacks? How can we prescribe some for everybody in the US? Somebody on medication for panic attacks please tell us the name of the medicine.

    141 OK Skeptic: “The cost to do anything about it is enormous,” The cost of doing nothing could be infinite: it could cause the extinction of Homo Sap. The cost of doing nothing will at least be far larger than you could possibly imagine. The collapse of civilization or a population crash are very likely. By population crash, I mean the starvation deaths of Billions, not millions, of people. Hang around a while and we will tell you more about that.

    “hence a high degree of certainty is required.
” We have that certainty.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 13 May 2011 @ 12:58 AM

  175. Rod B #159, that could be the leftmost part of the bathtub curve you’re looking at :-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 13 May 2011 @ 4:42 AM

  176. #174–

    Thanks, Martin, a useful pointer (for me, anyway.)

    I’ve got some LED nightlights that, after 10 years or so, are pretty clearly on the right-hand slope, and look distinctly patchy!

    A technically astute buddy of mine pointed out yesterday, though, that LEDs last the best when not subjected to over-voltages–which reminds us that reliability isn’t just a function of the basic technology, but also of usage, design, and operating environment.

    Comment by kevin mckinney — 13 May 2011 @ 7:28 AM

  177. “Denial is apparently caused by our lizard brainstem.”

    I’ve been following this thread, hoping for a little more insight to the authors’ meaning in the phrase above. As a developmental/behavioral pediatrician, I deal with all kinds of behavior in all kinds of people, most of whom have had brain injury as children. In the several fields making up behavioral science, we have our own conflicts and doubters.

    Without knowing how the authors have built their case (may have to read the book?), it is hard to argue causes for denial. The brainstem as source is at least oversimplified, with maybe a few nuggets of truth. Unfortunately, the science in my specialty area is its own kind of obscure. Everybody has theories about the behavior of others, and ‘facts’ come at us from all over the place, but very little as “hard” data. Personal experience remains the best clinical resource, and story telling is often the most effective route toward changing target behaviors.

    I’ve a pile of favorite soundbites for those clinical discussions, including some that fit here. Medicine is supposed to be “evidence-based”, just like the scientific method should drive the climatologists who do the work behind IPCC, Real Climate. However, when the discussion gets too close to home, or too far from a personal agenda, many people find ways to deny the science. When a psychiatrist rejects my diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome in a child because “FAS is over-diagnosed; a little alcohol never hurt anyone”, he is practicing “faith-based” medicine, by personal belief, while ignoring the available scientific data that has accumulated to overwhelm any doubt.

    These days of Fox News and talk radio, the message is clear: “If a scientific statement or theory is inconvenient, then choose one you like better”. Scientific method to discover truths is made equivalent to Evangelical Lutheranism, as just one of many other belief systems. Individuals make conscious decisions about beliefs, using cortical synapses, which function to over-ride and direct more automatic parts of brain, such as the brainstem. The chosen beliefs then direct the programs which run the hardware.

    When Dan H, one more time, trots out “CO2 is no pollutant”, in spite of the repeated, exhaustive destruction of his every argument, he is operating from a “faith-based” view of the world. He has programmed his brain to a reality where the “science” of RC is not at all relevant; his reflexive brain pathways are allowed to treat each new thread as just another opportunity to post more misinformation and already disproved claims, because “truth” is that relative thing.

    Comment by Phil Mattheis — 13 May 2011 @ 11:57 AM

  178. Edward Greisch

    My take: There is apparently a large segment of humanity which conflates being dogmatic with being principled. Being rooted in an inability to think properly, this lacks a cure. It will be mitigated to the extent that society is able to deprecate dogma and celebrate and advance those who can successfully deal with complex issues in social situations. The US in particular needs to grow up on the subjects of religion, money, and being “all mavericky and stuff” while stumping for personal positions regardless of the larger context (as though it will somehow all come out in the wash). There is no easy answer for this, but I do try to confound the stratagems of the dogmatic and laud the savvy as I’m able.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 13 May 2011 @ 12:43 PM

  179. #176 Phil’s description of clinical discussions reminds me of some of my experiences as a weather forecaster. Forecasting is a first cousin to climate science, being based on a combination of meteorological theory, modeling, and observations. An important difference is quick verification, so that experience can be built up more quickly. (This might resemble clinical medicine.) Also, the education bar is set lower, and a B.S. will suffice. Those of us who are serious about it continue our education, and stay up to date with relevant research.

    There is a well-known forecaster phenomenon referred to as “wishcasting,” where the forecaster bends the product to his/her desired outcome. The forecaster will go through ambivalent evidence, such as conflicting weather models, and come up with something that resembles their wish.

    Better forecasters realize that they cannot be truly objective, and look at their verification statistics for bias, as well as case studies of busted forecasts. Of course, this also leads to second-guessing. “Gee, I really think this is going to be a big storm, but I have a wet bias, so I’d better look more carefully at that drier model output to make sure I’m not fooling myself again.” Of course, this occurs both because forecasters care about their accuracy, but they are also weather geeks, and actually enjoy dramatic weather.

    In the context of this discussion, it is striking that a forecaster can go for years with a tendency to wishcast, and be unable to self-correct despite the evidence. Applying this to a climate scientist, there are far fewer opportunities for conclusive verification. (I just had a bad decade because of the PDO, we haven’t had a hotter year than 1998, whatever.) Somebody who is wishcasting climate sensitivity might well go an entire career without self-correcting, regardless of what part of their brain is operating in denial.

    Comment by John Pollack — 13 May 2011 @ 10:44 PM

  180. I know I’m a little late to the discussion, but I thought it might be worth joining to point out something nobody’s mentioned so far on this thread. Apart from the economic (i.e., Exxon, et al. funding “skeptic” positions) and psychological (i.e. “lizard brain”) reasons for skewed poll numbers in the U.S., there is also the cultural/sociological.

    Was Carter congratulated for donning a cardigan? (Did I get chicks in high school by aspiring to buy a used Subaru?) Not only is conservation not socially rewarded by mainstream Americans, it’s roundly ridiculed. I’d argue also that reckless resource use is rewarded: it’s “masculine” to own a muscle-car and to own (and therefore heat or cool) a house far larger than a family needs. It’s “safer” to transport children in an SUV. And of course considerably more patriotic to drill for oil or shower upstart middle-eastern nations with cruise missiles than it is to insulate houses or take public transportation.

    Much of this nation’s self-image and identity is tangled up in unthinking resource-consumption. Now there are compelling reasons (the most salient of which is AGW) for everyone to think more carefully about resource use. Of *course* there’s blow-back. A narrative of careful stewardship conflicts with our basic stories about our nation, which are all about plenty and prosperity, and the ingenuity to make things of it. List the real and mythical heroes of this country: none of them became heroes by wearing cardigans. But that’s what we need now, desperately: a change in the narrative that allows for a new kind of hero who can heat a house with the sun and use his (or her) legs to get to work. And not be a wimp about a little chill in the air.

    Comment by Steve R — 14 May 2011 @ 11:43 AM

  181. “Ray, a few percent of GDP (if that’s what it is) can be a huge number.” And it will sound even bigger and scarier to the innumerate if you convert it to Yen (~80/dollar, ~115/eu), or Nigerian Naira(~157/USD).
    Which is exactly the sort of deceptive propaganda disseminated by vested interests opposed to rational costing of fossil CO2 emissions and any decrease in dependence on fossil fuels they sell.

    What percent of GDP did unregulated Credit Default Swaps and Collateralized Debt Obligations represent in financial trading?

    “The first credit default swap was introduced in 1995 by JP Morgan. By 2007, their total value has increased to an estimated $45 trillion to $62 trillion.”
    “According to the latest data compiled by the Bank of International Settlements, as of June 2008, worldwide swaps markets included credit default swaps with a total notional value of $57 trillion;..”
    “Current-dollar GDP — the market value of the nation’s output of goods and services — increased 3.7 percent, or $135.0 billion, in the first quarter to a level of $15,006.4 billion.”

    First, conservative economists told us that cutting government spending and using the money saved to fund tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy will trickle down to the benefit of everyone, but fail to account for the negative trickle down effects of hiring fewer teachers, police, and safety inspectors, or spending less on highway/bridge maintenance, and clearing trees from levees. Income of the wealthiest 0.1% of the US grew ~1.7 fold, from ~7% to ~12% of all earnings between 2000 and 2007, but average annual jobs growth was the slowest since the end of WWII.

    When they tell us that avoiding global warming is too expensive, I suspect they aren’t including the costs of global warming, which can grow nonlinearly. If our levees will withstand 1.5^6 cfs, but we have to open the Morganza Spillway gates above that level when the additional humidity and storm intensity from AGW kicks the flow up a notch, we pass a very expensive threshold. Economics doesn’t handle these sorts of Black Swans well.
    “Governor Jindal indicated that state-estimated costs post-Morganza opening to be at least $80 million in just the first 30 days.”
    “In a separate news release, corps officials said they expect to flow less water through the floodway, based on new estimates of floodwaters moving downstream. Instead of putting 300,000 cubic feet per second into the Atchafalaya Basin, as little as 125,000 cubic feet per second might need to be diverted.” – good news for this year, but what about next time – earlier, bigger, more expensive?
    Is the $80 million based on 125kcfs or 300kcfs? It clearly doesn’t include the crippling of the oyster industry next year from oysters killed this year by too much fresh water.
    Are the costs for the second 30 days, and the third 30 days likely to rise, or decrease?

    Is there any reason to believe that the people who are arguing that fighting global warming is too expensive have ever considered “compared to what?”

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 14 May 2011 @ 2:23 PM

  182. (…) considerably more patriotic to drill for oil (…)

    (…)But that’s what we need now, desperately: a change in the narrative (…)

    Yet the newscast tells me Obama responds to everyone screaming about the current “high” gasoline prices by suddenly announcing speedup of drilling permits in Alaska, including offshore Alaska, and easing restrictions in the Gulf – instead of transfering petrosaur subsidies to some useful alternatives. :(

    Comment by flxible — 14 May 2011 @ 2:46 PM

  183. RE “Denial is apparently caused by our lizard brainstem.”

    Just finished grading my anthro theory class, and there could be some other theories, beside BIOLOGICAL DETERMINISM:

    1. THE MATERIALIST MARXIST VIEW — the consciousness of the rich (and the false consciousness of the poor hoping to be rich) is based on the material conditions of the society, and this leads to climate denialism.
    2. THE CULTURAL/IDEOLOGICAL DETERMINIST VIEW — it is the culture/ideology that forms the beliefs of the denialists, and they passively learn it from others.
    3. BASIC PERSONALITY STRUCTURE — different child rearing practices in different cultures leads to different projective systems (like a harsh father might lead to a harsh image of God) — so it is the type of potty training, weaning, and sexual discipline in early childhood in particular cultures/subcultures/families that leads people to become denialists.
    4. RAPPAPORT’S ECOLOGICAL SYSTEM APPROACH — tribes find adaptation to an environment and maintain it in an undegraded fashion through a series of cybernetic feedbacks that involves soil/etc, human and pig populations, regional political alliances/warfare, religious rituals, and the cognized model of propituating the ancestoral spirit. GW is just too slow in providing the needed feedback to make people stop degrading their home, and denialists can get by with denying GW without much negative repercussions.
    5. THE HEAT-IRRITABILITY/AGGRESSION HYPOTHESIS (this is actually from my criminal justice master’s thesis student): warmer temperatures make people more irritable, cantankerous, and aggressive — they just lash out at anything that happens to come across their path, including scientists talking about global warming. This would help explain why there seem to be more denialists around today and why they are more cantankerous, as GW ensues. Sort of a positive feeback loop here.

    Of course, there are many many more theories, but that’s a few I could come up with in a couple of minutes.

    Take your pick.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 14 May 2011 @ 7:32 PM

  184. I’m happy to eat my words:

    Re my #162, I take it all back, Royal Mail got me my copy of Climate Change Denial yesterday after all.

    Re: lizard brainstems (Rasmus’ OP, my #65, and others), I think we can lay that one to rest. Far as I can see, p. 101 of the book has a one-line cautiously worded reference to some author making an argument of that sort. It does not really figure at all in the book’s wide-ranging survey of psychological, social and political causes of denial.

    Comment by CM — 17 May 2011 @ 2:43 AM

  185. I don’t think it’s fair to compare climate deniers to reptiles. We should show more respect our scaly (and feathered) friends; after all, they’re not the ones pushing junk science.

    Comment by Teg — 17 May 2011 @ 5:43 PM

  186. Deniosaurs!

    They are the Deniosaurs!

    Destined for extinction, like their forebears.

    The only question is whether they’ll drag the rest of us down with them…

    Comment by Zibethicus — 19 May 2011 @ 10:04 PM

  187. I agree with the person who said we need more psychology, not more science to refute the propaganda used by deniers.

    This would be a very good place to start:

    Fleeing Vesuvius: The psychological roots of resource over-consumption

    Posted by nate hagens on May 11, 2011 – 9:50am
    Topic: Demand/Consumption
    Tags: evolutionary psychology, human psychology, overconsumption

    You can find more of nate’s work conveniently collected here: Archive 2005-2010

    While most of this is energy-focused, it is what we are actually discussing when we talk about the effects of GHGs. You will find the concepts broadly applicable to the issues discussed here.

    I’d very much encourage RC to invite him to post here with a more climate denial/how do we manage this crisis spin. I was going to offer such a post but have never gotten around to it.

    Comment by ccpo — 20 May 2011 @ 10:08 AM

  188. The recent tornado and high moisture events get the usual media treatment.
    As often explained, its a cold dry overlaying upper atmosphere capping a hot moist one which creates these rainy and violent conditions. So I read along with everyone else, obvious half explanations. All a while no one really bothers to explain why
    the upper atmosphere is particularly colder this season, and why the lower atmosphere is significantly more moist. Is like sleep walking through events, or inspired as one documentary producer told me long ago “speak to an 11 year old audience” otherwise they’ll flip to another channel. I deal with the why’s its so cold, because I live where its from. I got insight into this matter, and I can tell to most of you out there, cold isn’t cornered by media weather presenters. Its shown
    as some sort of “thing from Canada” , that is the only way they describe it. All the while the formation and in particular variation on how cold it gets up in the higher atmosphere is seriously dealt with by science papers, these get the scant attention they don’t deserve, a brief 300 word explanation next to to car ad. Thank goodness for RC, may this site prosper further.

    Comment by Wayne Davidson — 26 May 2011 @ 8:28 AM

  189. I am now reading “The Great Disruption” by Paul Gilding. He talks about how Churchill got nowhere until Hitler invaded Poland, and the US remained pacifist until Pearl Harbor. Then everybody changed suddenly. Gilding thinks such a change will happen with GW some time in 2018, if I remember correctly.

    Around page 157: Paul Gilding gives classes to CEOs in which he talks about GW. Paul Gilding keeps saying that soon there will be a sudden reversal of the common person’s attitude and then there will be a WW2 level of effort to stop Global Warming.

    CEOs keep asking Paul Gilding “How could it happen?” My translation: “Who else does the CEO have to kill to make sure it doesn’t happen? [The CEO is a psychopath. He doesn’t have a conscience and he doesn’t care.] Fossil fuels and business in general have killed millions of people already. The fossil fuel industry spent half a billion dollars as of 2009 to prevent change. The CEOs have prevented change in every way they can think of. So please won’t you just name the person the CEO has to kill to prevent people from coming to their senses and stopping Global Warming?”
    Did I get that right?

    Yes, I know that capitalism has also worked wonders. But, “The Great Disruption” by Paul Gilding also says that the business model must change. Exponential growth of any kind on a finite planet cannot continue for long. They will keep battering themselves by running into the wall. It will take a long time for the CEOs to realize that they must change the system. You can only work wonders until you run into the wall.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 1 Jun 2011 @ 7:10 AM

  190. It would help if journalists would do their jobs. I see glimmers of hope in stories like “Meteorologist on Severe Weather: ‘We Have Never Seen a Year Like This Before'” shown on PBS earlier this week. However, I think it’s about time for some unrelenting exposés of organizations and people like Inhofe who provide such vicious disservice to the public.

    “But as with all other conspiracy theories, it is the media’s job to call them out as wrong and resist the urge to “split the difference”. If not, we’d be living in a society where 9/11 truthers and Obama birthers were legitimate sceptics, rather than outlandish people unable to come to grips with reality. Yes, it takes more courage to call out climate truthers, because some of them are very influential. But that’s why it’s more important – because climate change is relevant to our lives and futures in a way that the baseless speculation about Trig Palin’s birthmother is not.”
    Climate ‘trutherism’: the conspiracy theory that’s no joke
    To its eternal shame, the Republican party has taken climate change denial out of the crank fringe and made it mainstream

    Comment by Radge Havers — 1 Jun 2011 @ 12:43 PM

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